Uddhav Thackeray calls urgent meet to resolve Shirdi row

Commercial establishments, shops, restaurants remained closed.

Mumbai: Shirdi remained shut on Sunday to protest against the chief minister announcing a grant of '100 crore for the development of facilities at 'Sai Janmasthan' at Pathri, nearly 273 kilometres away from Shirdi in Ahmednagar district.

Shops and eateries downed their shutters and vehicles remained off roads. However, the Sai Baba temple remained open throughout the day with no report of devotees facing any inconvenience.

“There is adequate arrangement of food and accommodation for devotees visiting Sai temple amid the bandh today,” Deepak Muglikar, CEO, Shri Shirdi Sai Baba Samsthan Trust, tweeted.

“None of the devotees coming from outside faced any problems, as the distribution of food, eatables, water was arranged by residents of Shirdi. But the bandh will not be withdrawn unless the chief minister takes back his remarks,” Sachin Tambe, a former member of the Shri Saibaba Sansthan Trust (SST)said.

Long queues of devotees were seen in front of the 'prasadalaya', breakfast centre and 'laddoo' sale centres of the temple. Commercial establishments, shops, restaurants and local transport (autorickshaws and other private vehicles) were closed and a shutdown was observed in the town as well as in 25 villages around Shirdi. But devotees who had made bookings at hotels were allowed to stay and taxi services from the airport to the temple were also unaffected.

Mr Lokhande had also extended his support to the bandh. "I am a Sai devotee first and an MP later. I support this protest. Sai Baba came to Shirdi when he was 16. He never revealed his caste or religion. I am going to speak to the chief minister about the issue," he said.

Senior minister Chhagan Bhujbal said the number of devotees visiting the Sai Baba shrine took a hit due to the bandh. “When I enquired about today's footfall of devotees at Shirdi, I came to know that it dropped by 10,000. I also got to know that people cancelled their bookings at hotels in the temple town,” he said.

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