The Puja pandal at Old Commissioner’s Compound in Ranchi has rural Bengal as its theme this year. Picture by Prashant Mitra
Some may call it commercialisation of Durga Puja, others see it as alternative means to generate revenue for the five-day festivities.
As galloping inflation is shrinking the quantum of chanda, organisers in Ranchi are relying heavily on temporary display ads and hoardings.
At Bakri Bazaar, considered one of the top-draw pandals in the city, the organising committee is planning to scrap the chanda system altogether in a couple of years. “Inflation is rising. It is only natural for people to deny chanda and we don’t believe in hooliganism and extortion. So, advertisement is our lifeline,” said Sanjay Choudhary, spokesperson of Bakri Bazaar Puja Samiti.
Around 30 hoardings have been booked on the pandal premises and they primarily comprise of telecom companies, big jewellery outlets and realtors.
“We are not allowing display of ads on the pandal itself. There are around 15 ads on welcome gates and roughly 20-25 more at visitor kiosks, stalls, etc. Some more companies are in queue. We are evaluating space to accommodate them,” Choudhary said. “Our rates begin from 20,000, but are negotiable. We are expecting revenue up to Rs 3 lakh. The rest of the funds will come from stalls that have been rented out,” he added.
Munchun Roy, president of Ranchi Zilla Durga Puja Samiti, confirmed that this year most clubs and committees under their banner were solely dependent on stalls, fairs and hoardings.
“Preparing bhog is expensive, devotees are offered the same for free at most pandals. So, hoardings are the prime source of revenue. We have sought Rs 2,000 from each railway household, the chanda being inclusive of bhog from Saptami to Ashtami. But, we cannot pressure any unwilling family,” said Roy, who also heads the Railway Youth Puja Committee.
Kokar Durga Puja too commands crushing crowd every year. A Samiti official here requested anonymity to say that they had stopped collecting door-to-door chanda.
“It is not happening anymore. Primarily, members and transport agencies pool in for the Puja. The fair is also famous and fetches us around Rs 4 lakh. But, the chunk of funds comes from ad revenue. Around 10 gates have been erected, where hoardings have been booked in the range of Rs 5,000 to 20,000 and above,” he added.
Hinoo United Club Durga Puja Samiti is already boasting hoarding houseful. All its 20 gates are chock-a-block with hoardings, while more ads are in the offing.
Durga Puja Mahanagar Samiti, a rival organisation of Ranchi Zilla Durga Puja Samiti, has deplored the business in the name of Durga Puja.
“We neither do business nor encourage hooliganism. We manage funds from our resources and patrons. For others, Puja has become a money-spinner. At our pandal (RR Sporting), we don’t charge a single penny for bhog,” said Krishna Yadav, president of Durga Puja Mahanagar Samiti.