Politics

Fewer orders, staff: Sculptors, artisans work under Covid shadow at CR Park


Despite the looming shadow of Covid on Durga Puja festivities this year, artisans and labourers in CR Park are hoping to make more profits than the previous year. They say there is a little more work than last year, but a lot less than before.

Sitting in his workshop inside the Kali Mandir complex, Govind Nath (49) says he would make anywhere between 50-70 sets of idols till two years ago. This year, he has made 13.

The height of the idols too has reduced — he used to sculpt idols that were around 20-30 feet tall while the tallest idol he sculpted this year is around 8-feet tall. “There has been very little work for the last two years. The price of raw material, which is brought from Bengal, has gone up,” says the third-generation sculptor, adding that his team of 12 workers has also shrunk.

Puja committees have made preparations keeping the DDMA’s guidelines in mind. Prodip Ganguly, secretary of the CR Park Kali Mandir Society, says, “Devotees will be allowed inside only for worship. Aarti and pushpanjali will take place online… There are no restrictions on the height of the idols but since immersion processions are not allowed, the idol has to be smaller than before.”

Nath says most orders are for idols smaller than 5 feet. An idol of around 3 feet would cost around Rs 25,000. However, his profit margin is as low as Rs 2,000.

On Sunday, he readies the idols for departure with help from two workers. A few of his orders are from CR Park and nearby areas like Kalkaji and Alaknanda, while others go to places in Gurgaon. Once the idols are ready, they are wrapped in paper to ensure they do not break.

Across his workshop is a temporary shed filled with bundles of colourful cloth which would be used for the pandals. Sitting inside at his sewing machine is Gourang Biswas (50), who stitches the edges of white cloth which will be used as the backdrop.

He says he learnt ‘karigari’ over 25 years ago and used to run a small shop in his hometown in Nadia district in West Bengal. When he realised there was not much profit there, he moved to Delhi and started working on contracts with companies that do pandal decorations for various festivals. But since the festivities are restricted and there are fewer pandals this year, the number of working days is lesser and the daily wage is lower than before. He earns Rs 550 per day. Earlier, with overtime during peak season, he would make around Rs 750 per day.

For Sanjay Roy (53), a helper tasked with miscellaneous activities such as carrying and folding the cloth, this is his first year working in CR Park. He lost his job as a peon at a private company because of the pandemic. He used to earn a salary of Rs 14,000 per month. Now, he works for a daily wage of Rs 400 a day.

At a ground near Chandralok Cinema, not too far away, sculptors hustle to get the idols ready and then load them onto trucks. Here too, the number of idols are lesser in number and smaller in size than before. Bappa (35), who came around a month ago from Nadia district, says, “I have been coming to Delhi for four years. But, I didn’t come last year.” They will get monthly salaries depending on the number and size of the idols they make and sell, he adds.



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