Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surgical strike, banning denominations of R 1000 and R 500 from Tuesday midnight literally left organisers of Jagadhatri Puja in a soup, since all the money they had collected to organised the Puja on Wednesday and Thursday (Navami and Dashami respectively) could not be used because nobody was accepting R1000 and R500.
Jagadhatri (literally meaning, the woman who nourishes the world) is a form of Durga and is worshipped in many areas of Bengal including Kolkata. The pujas of Hooghly district and especially those in the former French colony of Chandernagore attracts devotees from far and wide.
Just like Durga puja, Jagadhatri puja is held over four days. This year the dates were on November 7 to 10, and the abolition of the big denominations struck right in the middle of the pujas on the evening of November 8.
According to Soumen Bit, assistant secretary of Italgacha Nagarik Brinda, located near Kolkata airport, which have been organising Jagadhatri Puja for the past 10 years appeared confused and tense. “I just cannot figure out how I will manage to buy 250 kilograms of rice and approximately seven bags of potato so that we could serve pulao and alu dum to the residents of our locality,” he told HT on Wednesday.
Members of the puja committee visited various grocery shops since Wednesday morning but they could buy nothing since everywhere they went they produced R 1000 or R 500 notes, which all grocers refused to accept.
“We have the cash, yet we cannot purchase anything. We had the same experience when they went to the market to buy flowers and fruits required for the pujas,” Bit said.
Later, with the help of a local political leader, they managed to get the flowers and fruits on credit from flower and fruit sellers.
While puja, anjali and aarti were on, the puja committee organised a meeting at the pandal premises to figure out how they would be able to make payments to artists who were supposed to perform during a cultural programme on Wednesday evening. “We had to pay for the folk singer and had to buy various items that were supposed to be given out to winners of conch shell blowing, candle lighting and panipuri (phuchka) eating competition,” Soumen Bit said.
Similar difficulty was faced by Mahesh Bag who organise Jagadhatri Puja at his house. “Locals know me since I have been staying at this locality since childhood, therefore I managed to get everything on credit. I will make all payments once the banks and ATMs open on November 10.” Bag told HT.
“We will need money for the procession which will be taken out for immersion of the idol on Friday,” I am confused about what will happen on that day.
The news of the banning of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes broke at a time (on Tuesday night) when the streets of Chandernagore were full of devotees and revellers. The news prompted an immediate rush towards the ATMs and, in about two hours, there was chaos as many street food vendors refused notes of these denominations.
“I will land in bigger trouble if I keep accepting these notes,” said Atul Baidya, a snacks vendor who preferred to let go a few customers.
Visiting the former French colony the next day, chief minister Mamata Banerjee said that the note ban effectively spoilt the festive mood in the town.
“I had to loan to buy sweets to offer the goddess. Many people could not offer sweets to the goddess because they hardly had Rs 100 notes with them,” she had said while visiting a Jagaddhatri puja pandal.