Workers busy themselves in setting up the kulhar pandal of RR Sporting Club on Ratu Road in Ranchi on Monday. Picture by Hardeep Singh
The runaway inflation is threatening revelry in the run-up to Durga Puja.
Hike in fuel prices and labour costs is telling on coffers of organising committees in Ranchi, many of which do not wish to compromise on grandeur of pandal and pratima and are left grappling with a budget steeper by 25-30 per cent.
If tent house contractors have upped their charges by a quarter, the humble scaffolding worker is eyeing at least a 10 per cent wage hike. Skilled artisans are deservedly more expensive. So, while the big ones are scrimping and saving to pull off the five-day festivities splendidly, pandals with shoestring budget have no choice but to keep it fairly simple.
“Last year, we had spent Rs 16 lakh on our pandal. This time, the estimated budget is around Rs 21 lakh because of rapid inflation. However, we do not wish to compromise on tradition,” said Krishna Yadav, the chief of RR Sporting Club, which organises the big-draw Durga Puja of Ratu Road.
“This festive season comes once a year and our members do not want the mood to be sour. So, we will have a grand pandal like every time, although it will drain out coffers. We are seeking bigger amounts in donation to cushion the cost escalation,” he added.
Quite paradoxically, the RR Sporting pandal this time will be a temple made of 10 lakh kulhars, the earthen cup popularised by Lalu Prasad, former Union railway minister and arguably the champion of the common man’s cause.
Artisans conceded that they had increased their charges.
“We have demanded a hike by 10-25 per cent. We have families to take care of. Prices of consumer commodities are increasing every day and it is difficult for us to make both ends meet at the earlier labour rates,” said Kashinath Kushwaha, the head artisan at Satya Amar Lok Durga Puja pandal on Harmu Road. “Last year, an artisan charged Rs 400 a day. This time, it is Rs 500,” he added.
The pandal, which Kushwaha and his men are raising, will resemble a giant hawan kund and cost Rs 15 lakh. Sources said that since the budget was same as last year, the splendour was being comprised on.
Of the 60-odd pandals that pop up in the state capital every Durga Puja, most do not exceed a budget of Rs 5 lakh. These low-end organisers are swearing by simplicity. Some high-end puja committees are following suit.
“The pandal contractor has demanded 25 per cent extra for every article to be used. So, the budget has hit the roof. Last year, the cost of our pandal was Rs 20 lakh. We want to keep it at Rs 16-17 lakh this year. We will have to make cuts here and there,” said Sanjay Choudhary, the joint treasurer of Bharatiya Yuvak Sangh, which patrons the Bakri Bazaar Durga Puja.
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