Park order brightens stall hopes for pujas
Puja committees across Calcutta are gearing up to accept proposals for setting up stalls after the civic body decided to keep parks open from Friday, the desperation reflecting an overwhelming urge to find some source of revenue in Covid-hit times.
A little more than 250 of the 756 pujas in the city are held in parks that are maintained by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation and a majority of them depend heavily on stalls for their income. Amid the Covid pandemic, earnings from advertisements have been reduced to almost nil and sponsors, too, have remained lukewarm to proposals for setting up stalls from most puja committees.
A number of puja organisers have seen a glimmer of hope of raising some money in the civic body’s decision to open the parks for pujas.
Almost all organisers have decided there will be fewer stalls than previous years but stalls there will be.
“We spoke to some stall owners on Saturday and have taken advance from a few. This year, we will possibly have around 20 stalls, half of what we had last year,” said Pabitra Basak, of Kumartuli Park puja committee. “These stalls will fetch us a little over a lakh. That's quite an amount for us in these times.”
The organisers of a puja at Tallah Park met stall owners on Sunday to decide on the final rates. “We will reduce the number by a fourth. But some stalls are required. Residents of our locality depend on them on the festive days,” said Joydeep Saha of Belgachia Sadharan Durgostav.
Between Saptami and Navami, stalls across pujas are usually the principal supplier of food to pandal-hoppers as well as residents of the respective neighbourhoods as many people prefer to stay away from the kitchen on the festive occasion.
And not just food, some of the stalls sell myriad other items including costume jewellery and dress materials.
“We will earn around Rs 10 lakh from 30 stalls,” said Avishek Bhattacharya of Tallah Barowari Durgostav Committee.
This year the police in several parts of Calcutta have asked puja organisers to avoid setting up stalls to prevent gatherings, as a precaution against Covid-19. Fairs have been stopped and unless there is adequate space, organisers have been requested not to allow stalls.
“We have around 20 gates and this year no agency has come forward to sponsor even one,” said Sandip Chakraborty of Badamtala Ashar Sangha. “Without stalls how will we survive?”