Fuel price hike hits 'jatra' industry as production budget heads north
KOLKATA: Rising fuel prices have severely impacted Bengal's jatra groups. The increasing prices of petrol and diesel have resulted in an increase in the budget of a 'jatra pala' and sometimes even in cancellation of a booking too.
"You need at least two vehicles for each 'jatra pala' — one for the artistes and another bus. So, imagine how much we have to shell out just on travel from Kolkata to Midnapore," said Animesh Kanti Biswas of Rupmanjari Jatra Unit. Their group is ready with the 'jatra pala', 'Sadhak Ramprasad' this year. Nihar Ranjan Ghosh of Akashdeep Opera echoed similar sentiments. "If a jatra group is booked for Rs 50,000 per night, at least Rs 15,000-Rs 20,000 is spent on cars," he said.
The Bengal jatra industry is back on its foot again on Rath Yatra. It's that time of the year when they start the bookings of the season. On Friday, minister for youth affairs and sports and power Aroop Biswas, who is also the president of Paschim Banga Jatra Academy, was present to release 'Jatra Darpan 2022' at Baghbazar.
The brochure consists of details of new jatra palas and contact numbers of producers and groups. A temporary booking counter adjacent to Jatra Academy building has been set up to start bookings of the season. During Covid-19, the jatra artistes and technicians went through a turmoil. While some resorted to selling vegetables and fish, others even had to sell sanitisers. Kumar Bapi of Sonar Bangla Jatra informed Millennium Post how a jatra actress had to cook at other's houses to make her both ends meet.
However, this year, the jatra industry is hopeful. "Even last year, we did a fair business. This year, we are looking to do much better. But the hike in petrol and diesel have seriously impacted us," he said. Jatra actors Piyali and Pamela feel it's the artistes who suffer the most due to the price hike. "It's not only about fuel prices, but the price of essential commodities have also increased. The price hike affects the actors most. The number of shows are less and sometimes, they are even cancelled," said Pamela.
"After Covid-19, we are struggling with the financial crisis. The price hike only adds to the problem," said Piyali.
For Kumar Neel of New Jatralok, keeping the production within a budget has become a trouble. "Earlier, we were charged Rs 12-13 per km, but now it has gone upto Rs 22-23 per km. So, the budget of a production has increased," Neel said.
This year, 'Kiranmala' actress Chandrayee Ghosh has been roped in for their 'jatra pala' 'Bekar Swamir 420 Bou'.
Actor Anubhav, who is also the joint secretary of Sangrami Jatra Prahari, will be seen alongside Chandrayee in the 'jatra pala'.
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