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Shola artisans at Kumartuli face GST, floods' dual blow

Shola artisans at Kumartuli face GST, floods dual blow
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Kolkata: The dominance of theme-based Durga Pujas in the city from the late 90's had started affecting the shola business in Kumartuli. However, this year, with the dual effect of the flood-like situation in both North and South Bengal and Goods and Service Tax (GST) that has pushed up the price of shola articles, have dealt a telling blow to hundreds of people who are associated with shola business in Kumartuli- the hub of the artisans.
"Various items of shola have played an intrinsic part in decking up the pandals. However, GST has pushed up the price by nearly 25 percent. A number of puja organisers had said that they had to curtail their puja budget due to the flood-like situation. Sales have been extremely feeble and bulk orders from so-called big budget pujas have reduced," Tapan Pal who has been associated with this business for more than 35 years said.
The claims of Pal was evident with the 20-25 odd shops selling decorative articles of shola and thermocol presenting a deserted look amidst the busy idol makers. "Bulk orders would come from states like Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand and even Delhi during the pujas. But this year situation is very poor till now," Pal added.
The tree from which shola is carved out and shaped comes from Bangladesh. The people associated with this business would purchase them from the Sunday market in Ultadanga and will dry them before carving out crowns of the idols, models of dhaki, fairies, lady with conches, banana trees etc for adorning the pandals.
"We had an average sale of around 4 to 5 lakh in the shops here even five years back," rued Tapas Chatterjee, owner of the Sholaghar, a shop at Kumartuli.
Chatterjee said that the art of making shola artworks is associated with the tradition of Kumartuli. "It is disheartening that we are losing out. The matter has been taken up by our committee. Hope things will change soon," he added.
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