Ananya Dutta

Organisers willing to spend less on idols than earlier

Many compensated by going in for smaller idols

KOLKATA: Even as Durga Puja festivities began in West Bengal from Thursday, artisans from the city’s colony of idol-makers at Kumartuli have little to cheer about with their profits severely affected by the economic recession and the rising prices.

“On the one hand the cost of raw materials shot up, on the other organisers cut down the amount they were willing to spend on the idols,” said Babu Pal, secretary of the Kumartuli Mritshilpa Sanskriti Samiti.

According to Mr. Pal, the cost of bamboo shot up from Rs.45 last year to Rs.90 this year, prices of hay from Rs.120 to about Rs.170 per kg. And even though the pith is rarely available now, artists who adorned the idols with the same had to shell out nearly Rs.400-Rs.500 for the pith that would cost them Rs.200 last year.

“Even export orders have gone down this year,” said Bolai Dutta, who got only three export orders for this Durga Puja instead of the usual 10.

While costs of making idols have escalated, the slowdown has meant that idol-makers have not even been able to pass on the burden to the buyers.

“My regular customers told me that it had been difficult for them to collect funds this year,” said Nabakumar Pal, another artisan at Kumartuli.

“ They compensated by going in for smaller idols — say 8 ft instead of the usual 10 ft.”

Besides these worries, studio owners also had to contend with labour shortages.

Over the years, the number of persons who learnt idol-making has declined. They are in high demand in during days just before the the Puja , said Mr. Pal. An artisan who usually charges Rs.150 a day, is charging as much as Rs.800 now, he added. “The profession, seasonal by nature, is so unrewarding that I would never encourage my son to join it,” said Bhaskar Pal.