Vishwakarma idols in Sakchi, Jamshedpur, wait for organic makeover. Picture by Bhola Prasad
This year, Jamshedpur is determined not to make green Durga Puja a fad but get cracking on making it possible.
With years of pleading for eco-friendly idols going in vain, this time members of Jamshedpur Durga Puja Kendriya Samiti held a meeting with 32 city idol-makers last week, asking the latter to start experimenting with organic colours.
Toxic colours are widely used by idol-makers for their low cost, easy availability, shine and intensity, contain elements such as mercury, cadmium, lead and carbon.
Insoluble in water, the chemicals in toxic paint are transmitted to algae in water bodies and consumed by aquatic animals and later human beings as part of the inter-linked food chain.
Trying to drill these hazards in artisans is slowly having an effect. Artisans have asked for samples of organic colours used in metros such as Calcutta or Mumbai.
Samiti members will now go to Calcutta’s idol-making hub Kumartuli to scout for dealers of organic or watercolours used on idols, less toxic to water after immersion.
“Idol-makers in the city have asked for samples of organic colours which we can get in metros, the nearest being Calcutta. Cost isn’t a problem but none of the artisans have tried organic paints. We will go to Kumartuli and get contacts of paint suppliers,” said Rambabu Singh, Samiti secretary.
The Samiti asked idol-makers to start experimenting with natural colours in upcoming festivals such as Vishwakarma Puja and Ganesh Puja in September.
For years, artisans have been applying toxic paint on clay idols without knowing about its hazards to rivers and lakes.
On the other hand, though Samiti secretary Singh disclaimed cost as a factor, idol-makers dependent on the Puja season for their yearly income are bothered about the price of eco-friendly paint. Locally available synthetic and toxic paint cost Rs 150 per litre, while organic colours cost at least five or six times more.
“We can use watercolours but they cost five to six times more than synthetic colours,” said S.C. Gorai, an idol-maker.
Others added that watercolours looked pale and matte. The hues of synthetic paints were deep and shiny, which made idols look good.
“Watercolours have limitations and idols will not get the desired look. After painting with watercolours, idols need varnish for the essential shine,” said another artisan.