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Green Puja still a far cry for city

Jamshedpur will have to wait till next Durga Puja to go eco-friendly in a big way as artisans complained that a diktat to make lighter and organic idols this year came too late.

Last month, the Jamshedpur Durga Puja Kendriya Samity had asked organisers to opt for lightweight idols as they were easier to immerse.

However, by the time the directive was passed, artisans in the city were well into the idol-making process and much of the work had been completed. According to idol makers, if the puja committees wanted lighter idols, the directive should have been given seven months ago.

“We can’t redo everything in a month. The samity should have thought about this months ago because artisans start making the structures six months before Durga Puja. It is too late to tell us to keep things light this time,” said S.C. Gorai, an artisan working on 16 Durga idols.

According to the craftsmen, traditional structures need bamboo, clay and hay while the lighter idols are made of coir, copper wires and plaster of Paris. Though lightweight, such idols need more time to make. If a 15ft-high clay idol weighs two quintals, a similar one of plaster of Paris will weigh only 50kg.

However, the artisans argued that plaster of Paris was not that eco-friendly as it contained gypsum, sulphur, phosphorus and magnesium, which do not dissolve as easily as clay in water.

“Lightweight idols may also cost more. A 10ft clay idol set which cost Rs 18,000 last year will sell for Rs 20,000 this year. Price of raw material has shot up,” said Kadma’s Kedar Mallick, one among the 70 idol makers in the steel city.

The artisans were candid enough to admit that it was difficult to make environment-friendly idols. While plaster of Paris took a long time to dissolve, synthetic colours used on idols contained mercury, cadmium, lead and carbon, all polluting.

Using water colours wasn’t cost effective. “It will cost us five to six times more, which will add to overall costs, which Puja committees will not be willing to pay. There are companies which have launched organic colours but the shades are limited,” said artisan Rajesh Pal.

The Jamshedpur Durga Puja Kendriya Samity, however, remained optimistic of a green Puja next year.

“Next year we will sit down with the artisans much earlier and address the problems. We have already made the start by supporting Rotary Club of Jamshedpur which will hand out jute bags in the pandals for bhog distribution,” said Rambabu Singh, samity secretary.