Idol-makers of Kumartuli in 'Demon' fix
Almost resembling the gutsy freedom fighters of the yesteryears, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had sought 50 days after announcing demonetisation, promising freedom from the clutches of note ban pains, all for one reason — to fight black money.
But leave alone 50 days, even eight months after the Centre's note ban, there are sectors that are still reeling under its impact. One such sector belongs to Bengal's quintessential idol-makers of Kumartuli.
The age-old studios in the dark alleys of Kumartuli wear a flustered look. The narrow lanes look all the more gloomy with artists putting in their blood and sweat with concerns of uncertainty.
Rath Yatra marks the "season" in Kumartuli as several Puja committees and people who celebrate Durga Puja at home come for the "bayna" or to place their orders with the artists. However, this year is a bit different than the other years.
"It's not that orders aren't coming in. But almost in every order, we are having to comply with certain compromises. Puja committees this year have lower budgets than earlier years as they are not sure whether they would be able to collect enough sponsorship from companies due to note bandi," remarked Kartik Pal, a famous artisan of the area and secretary of Kumartuli Mrit Shilpi Samiti.
Speaking to the secretary of a famous Puja committee of the city, the picture became all the more clearer.
"We start collecting advertisements from around this time of the year. This year, Puja is not far away. Every arrangement calls for a cost and that comes from sponsorships and advertisements. But this time, we are not able to bag any major advertisement/s as almost everybody is reeling under the fangs of demonetisation," said the secretary on condition of anonymity.
With better pay in states like Mumbai, shortage of labour is one more reason to worry about and the increase in per day remuneration of artists and workers just multiplies it. "An artist during this time of the year takes between Rs 1,200-Rs 1,500 per day and a labourer Rs 500 per day.
This goes up to Rs 2,000 a day in the subsequent days," said Gour Pal, president, Kumartuli Mrit Shilpi Samiti.
With several artists drowned in huge debts, in an obvious tension, several god-makers are worried whether they will be able to cope with the increasing cost of raw
materials and labour and see some money at the end of the season. "For us, it is no more a target for profit. We shall consider it enough if we somehow manage to earn what we have invested from our own pockets or paid for from bank loans," said Kartik Pal.
"Cost has gone up by almost 50 percent and on top of that we have to pay EMIs of previous year's loans. The banks are not ready to come to an understanding and the mahajans are crueler. All would have been smoothly done only if demonetisation had not hit us so badly. It's because of this that the Puja committees are trying to curtail costs and as a ripple effect, we too are being affected," maintained an agitated Gour Pal.