Shortage of manpower and growing corporatisation of community Pujas have forced the organisers of some big pandals to hire commission agents to mobilise funds this year.
“We have engaged agents at 10 per cent commission,” said mayor Subrata Mukherjee, also the organiser of the Ekdalia Evergreen Puja. “As the budgets are on the rise and inflow of individual subscriptions is decreasing, there is no alternative but to take the help of commission agents.”
Rajib Deb, member, mayor-in-council (conservancy), who is in charge of the Ballygunge Place Durgabari community Puja, said: “We have to allow commission to collectors of advertisements, since inflow of donations is drying up.”
Suruchi Sangha, in New Alipore, however, has devised yet another method, before finalising their decision to hire agents. Instead of individual subscriptions, the committee has distributed 1,000 contract forms amongst the residents. “Those who collect advertisements will be exempted from coughing up their own subscription. It can be considered a commission on fetching advertisements for the souvenirs,” pointed out Sangha president Arup Biswas. Admitting that appointing commission agents was the best solution, he said: “I will hire agents from next year because big community Pujas are now becoming professional.”
Ratan De of Jodhpur Park Sarbojanin, too, echoed the view: “We are taking the help of agents to raise funds. The response is good.”
But Pradip Ghosh of Santosh Mitra Square Sarbojanin, who could not quite agree, said: “Puja is not a business for us. We think appointing commission agents will kill the basic spirit of a community Puja.” Organisers of College Square, Mohammad Ali Park, Kumartuli and Bosepukur Pujas did not comment on resource mobilisation for their Pujas.
More than 1,000 community Pujas take place in and around the city every year, with budgets ranging from Rs 4 lakh to Rs 40 lakh. According to mayor Mukherjee, organisers have to harness a fund of over Rs 100 crore to hold these community Pujas, and about 10 per cent of the total expenditure comes from subscriptions. Advertisements for souvenirs are the main source of raising funds. He also pointed out that almost all organisers of big community Pujas had long been giving bonus to their fund collectors. “I think it would be more transparent if I announce a fixed rate of commission on advertisement collected,” he added.
Most organisers felt that unless a way out was found to mobilise funds, it would be impossible to hold community Pujas on big budgets.