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Crunch prompts pujas to skip carnival or pare budget

Cost of participating in the Red Road extravaganza too much for many organisers

By Kinsuk Basu and Subhankar Chowdhury in Calcutta

  • Published 10.10.19, 2:04 AM
  • Updated 10.10.19, 2:04 AM
A Durga idol wrapped in plastic on the way to the Hooghly for immersion amid rain on Wednesday afternoon
A Durga idol wrapped in plastic on the way to the Hooghly for immersion amid rain on Wednesday afternoon Picture by Bishwarup Dutta

Hamstrung by a funds crunch, some of Calcutta’s big pujas have decided to pull out of the Puja Carnival on Red Road.

At least three big pujas — two from south Calcutta and one from the north — will not participate in this year’s show, scheduled for October 11. Organisers said it cost at least Rs 1 lakh to participate in the carnival.

A show with some pomp and grandeur costs between Rs 2 lakh and Rs 3 lakh, an amount that most puja committees cannot afford.

The economic slump has forced most puja organisers, who depend heavily on advertisements, to curtail budget. Participation in the carnival requires an unaffordable expenditure.

Several puja committees said they had decided to scale down their preparations for the annual show.

“Cash crunch has never been so intense like this year. Like many other puja committees, we too lack funds,” said Kajal Sarkar of the Bosepukur Sitala Mandir puja committee. “We have decided to make certain adjustments to our preparations for the carnival.”

The slowdown has resulted in lower retail consumption and consumers are preferring to keep money in their wallets fearing a sharp drop in earnings. The trend hit Puja budgets, too.

Earlier, banners would go for Rs 3,000 to Rs 4,000. This year they fetched around Rs 1,500. Hoardings on gates leading to puja pandals cost around Rs 40,000 this year, against Rs 80,000 to Rs 1 lakh earlier.

“The cost has increased by 10 to 20 per cent, including that of decorators, lights and idols. But our collections have gone down,” said a puja organiser from Behala. “This year, ads have dried up. Corporate budgets have shrunk remarkably.”

At a meeting in the Alipore Body Guard Lines on Wednesday, police officers and representatives of the information and cultural affairs department told the puja committees that will participate in the carnival that each could bring up to three trailers for carrying the idols and one for the generator set.

Each committee will be given two minutes for a performance in front of chief minister Mamata Banerjee and other invitees.

Many organisers said trailers were hard to get by and trucks were charging exhorbitant amounts. Subir Das, the general secretary of 75 Palli in Bhowanipore, said they would present two tableaux, instead of the usual three.

Given the condition of the sky, many organisers wondered whether it would make sense to hire artistes. “What if it rains on Friday? We have to take the artistes to the venue and ferry them back home. The transportation costs a lot. We will take a call on Thursday,” said Anjan Ukil of Ballygunge Cultural Association.