As Delhi gears up to celebrate Navaratri and Durga Puja with fervour after a two-year Covid pandemic lull, the situation continues to remain gloomy for the city’s idol-makers due to curtailed spending by individuals and budget cuts by puja committees.
According to the artisans, orders have reduced by almost 70 per cent this year as compared to pre-Covid times and most of the orders are for smaller and cheaper idols, which results in thin profit margins.
”Our business got impacted due to the pandemic and the subsequent restrictions. We have returned to work after two years but the business hasn’t revived. It is not even 25 per cent of what it used to be (before Covid) and because of this, we had to reduce our staff,” owner of an idol-making shop at Chittaranjan Park Govind Nath told PTI.
Eleven idol makers from West Bengal, who used to work in here, went back to their respective hometowns during the first lockdown in 2020, he said.
”People have been ordering idols of smaller sizes. Puja committees have slashed their budgets too. Those who used to spend Rs 1.5 to 2 lakh on an idol are now shelling out only to Rs 50,000 to Rs 80,000,” Nath told PTI.
“We used to make at least 70 to 80 idols here during Durga Puja in the pre-Covid times. This year, we are making only 25,” he added.
Nath said his family has been in the business of making idols for more than 50 years but ”never faced losses” like they did in the last two years.
Tapan Biswas (40), an artisan at Chittaranjan park, had admitted his nine-year-old son to a prominent Delhi school a year before the pandemic hit. Due to the losses, he had to get his son into a government school.
”I was happy when I got my son admitted to one of the finest private schools in the city. But after the pandemic, I had to move him to a government school so that I could manage the family expenses. There was no work as religious celebrations and gatherings were barred during the lockdown,” Biswas told PTI.
Twenty-two-year-old Sujit Das, who hails from West Bengal’s Krishnanagar, had to run from pillar to post to earn a living and support his family during the pandemic.
”Last two years have been extremely difficult. I had to return to my hometown and look for work there. My brother is also an artisan and we both run the family,” Das said.
Meanwhile, Saurav Chakraborty, member of a CR park puja committee, said budgets have been slashed by around 25 per cent this year due to a paucity of funds.
”Funds are not coming from the usual sponsors. We have cut down on the spending on cultural programmes as well. No programme has been cancelled, but we won’t be able to organise them on a large scale as we used to do before the pandemic,” he said.