Not an idol situation ahead of Durga Puja

With the biggest Bengali festival to kick off in two months, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) imposed earlier in July has turned out to be a huge setback for the Durga Puja idol-makers of Kumartuli here.

According to them, the new tax is difficult for them to “understand and implement” as no circular on the new rates has been issued till date.

Meanwhile the prices of raw materials have surged, while thousands of idol-makers are still recovering from the impact of last year’s demonetisation.

Rabindra Sarani and Banamali Sarkar Street in Central Kolkata usually buzz with activity at this time of the year, as that is where Kumartuli, the city’s idol-making hub, is located. But this year the festive air is missing.

Kajol Paul who has been working with his brother Goutam Paul for more than 10 years, says the tax changes have been “excessive” for their industry. “Cost of clay has gone up to ₹200-250 as against ₹150-175 while bamboo and straw are priced between ₹150-175, which is higher than the previous year”, he says.

Famous artist Prasanta Paul, whose idols travel abroad, says even the pujas held internationally have limited budgets and hence, they are unsure how to handle service or delivery charges.

“Honestly, we do not know how the GST system works and therefore don’t know how much to charge for the idols,” he adds.

As the city gears up for the mega autumnal carnival, representatives of the Kumartuli Mrit Shilpa Sanskriti Samiti, an artisans’ association in northern Kolkata, anticipate a loss due to GST. Many say the money they make during this season sustains them through the rest of the year and thus “less income during the Puja season means lower living standards” for the rest of the year.

 

Biswanath Dey, a member of the association, says that since the pricing of basic commodities under the various GST slabs is still uncertain [which extensively varies from 5%–15%] it has not yet been decided if additional charges would be…

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