Oct. 9: Many Puja organisers in south Bengal have cut down their budgets as advertisements for souvenirs, banners and festoons from fund-mobilising companies have dried up in the wake of the Saradha default crisis.
Many deposit-mobilising companies in the districts have shut shop after the Saradha bubble burst in April.
Visits to some puja pandals revealed that the organisers have cut down their budgets by Rs 1.5 lakh to Rs 3 lakh on average.
In Murshidabad, offices of at least 40 sham companies have closed down.
In Behrampore town, Babulbona puja committee secretary Madangopal Das said the budget had been slashed by Rs 2 lakh.
“We were forced to cut down our budget because we did not get any funds from deposit-mobilising companies. Last year, we had received nearly Rs 3 lakh by displaying ads of such firms,” Das said.
“But all major funds firms in the district have closed down after Saradha defaulted on repayments. Last year, these companies had sponsored seven gates around our pandal. But this time, we have only two gates, which are sponsored by companies not involved in deposit mobilising,” he added.
The organisers of Bhatpara Milani Club, also in Behrampore town, said they had got Rs 2 lakh last year by displaying flex banners and gates with ads of deposit-mobilising companies.
“This year, we had been assured of more sponsorship. But after the Saradha incident, the offices of these companies closed down one after the other. So, we did not get any sponsorship from them. So we had to stress more on subscriptions. Let’s see what we can do,” said Pranranjan Dey, the secretary of the club.
Puja committees in East Midnapore’s Chandipur said the offices of at least 50 funds firms in the town had closed down. “These companies used to sponsor as many as 50 gates near pandals. They also used to provide funds for soirees with artistes from Calcutta. But as the offices have stopped operations now, the funds flow has stopped,” said Pradip Maity, the vice-president of Chandipur Vivekananda Sangha.
He said the Sangha had cut down its Puja budget to Rs 4 lakh from Rs 13 lakh last year.
“During the Pujas, we used to organise shows with singers from Mumbai. The funds-raising companies used to shoulder almost the entire financial burden of these programmes. But this year, that source has dried up. So we are trying to get TV serial actors from Calcutta and local bands and orchestra to perform during the Pujas,” Maity added.
In Nadias’ Chakdah, the problem for Puja organisers have been compounded with businessmen suffering losses by depositing money with funds firms. These businessmen have not advertised in Puja pandals.
Dipak Bose, the secretary of Uttar Lalpur Youth Club in Chakdah, said: “We had a budget of Rs 7 lakh last year. But this time, we were forced to cut down by Rs 2 lakh. As the businessmen suffered losses by investing in funds companies that went bust, they have not given us ads.”