Kumartuli idol-makers face rising labour and input costs

September 13th, 2010 - 1:33 pm ICT by IANS  

By Aparajita Gupta
Kolkata, Sep 13 (IANS) Costs of organising Durga Puja have gone up this year as idol-makers in the city spend more on increased labour and raw material costs which in cases have jumped almost 50 percent.

Kumartuli, the nerve centre of the clay idol-makers of Kolkata, is facing an acute shortage of labour thanks to the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme that is inducing hundreds to stay back in their villages rather than going to the city for work.

“This year we have faced tremendous problems in securing labour from villages due to the 100-day work project undertaken by the central government. Due to this we have had to increase labour charges,” idol-maker Debraj Rudra Paul told IANS.

He said the labour charges this year have gone up by at least 20 percent.

“If we earlier used to pay Rs.100 per day to the labourers, now it is very hard to get any worker below Rs.120 per day,” said Debraj, who employs 10-15 persons to make idols at his unit.

Durga Puja starts Oct 14 and will flag off the festive season in eastern India.

Kumartuli (also spelt Kumortuli) is a traditional potters colony in northern Kolkata. The artisans here supply clay idols of Hindu gods and goddesses to community pujas in not only Kolkata and its neighbourhoods but also other parts of India and abroad.

Around 100 artisans in the narrow Banamali Sarkar Lane in the area are racing against time to complete their work before the grand autumn festival in eastern India begins Oct 14.

Rising input costs have added to the woes of the idol-makers.

Babu Pal, a noted idol-maker and secretary of the Kumartuli Mritshilpa Sanskriti Samity (Kumortuli Idol-makers’ Cultural Association), said the cost of bamboo has almost doubled from Rs.50-55 a year ago to Rs.100-110 per piece this year.

The price of hay, used to stuff the idols, has shot also up from Rs.100 per bundle to Rs.180.

Paint prices have gone up by 20 percent on an average.

“The 100-day work programme and several other such programmes by the state government is keeping the villagers busy. Hence, we are not getting enough labour force this year. This crisis is pushing up labour costs,” said Babu.

Babu’s association has 340 idol-makers.

Mantu Paul, another idol-maker, said the artisans are in a fix - how to pass on the increased costs to the customers, fully or partially.

Idol prices vary from Rs.10,000-Rs.100,000 depending on size and decoration.

(Aparajita Gupta can be contacted at aparajita.g@ians.in)

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