Taxing times for the gods: GST pushes up price of Durga idols
Prices may rise by as much as 20% or more.kolkata Updated: Aug 08, 2017 11:17 IST
Goods and Services Tax (GST) is all set to play a major spoil- sport for the forthcoming Durga Puja as the new tax is all set to adversely impact the price of idols. Durga puja will be held in the last week of September and this is the busy season for artists to put together the idols now.
The price of various items that are used to make these idols have gone up in the new tax regime, pushing up the price of the idols at least 15 to 20%.
“The highest slab of GST 28% is applicable on varnish oil. Similarly, the GST on zari, another important ingredient for decoration of idol has been fixed at 12%. Silk clothes, necessary for making the attires of the idols are now being taxed at 5%. Till last year, we had been enjoying a zero tax on such ingredients,” pointed out Mintu Pal, who made the tallest Durga idol (88 feet) at a community puja in south Kolkata in 2015.
The varnish oil is an absolutely essential item as it lends the sheen on the idol.
Pal, who is based in Kumartuli, Bengal’s idol-making hub in north Kolkata, said that the cumulative effect will be a rise in prices of about 15-20% compared to that in 2016, if the artists want to maintain their profit margin.
However, some artists fear that they will not be able to raise prices so much, and will have to sacrifice their margins. The catch is, many community puja organisers negotiated the price weeks ahead of when GST came into force.
“We sealed the deals from big organisers at least two months before the GST came in force. The price was fixed then. Now, we cannot ask them for an exorbitant increase. Perhaps we would get 5-10% more. Some are agreeable, while some are unbending. Our margins would suffer,” said Nantu Pal, an idol- maker from Potuapara, a relatively small idol-making colony in south Kolkata.
Puja organisers also feel the new tax regime is going to impact their puja budget adversely. According to Mukul Manna, assistant secretary of famous Tridhara Sanmilani puja in South Kolkata, “While advertisers ask us to bear the burden of GST, we expect the same from them. Hence, we are trying to reach a 50:50 formula, where the share of GST burden is equally shared,” said Manna.
“All our regular advertisers have told us this year they will not give us money to account for the GST effect on our budget. Therefore, we have decided to cut expenses on lighting and decoration,” said Jatin Mittal, secretary of Bedidanga Young Boy’s Club, a much smaller puja compared to Tridhara.
A few artists such as Kumartuli-based Ranjit Sarkar think that the hardship will be there only for this year.
“Most deals with big organisers were sealed before GST became operational. This is certainly causing inconvenience for idol makers like me. Since we do not want to spoil our relationship with our old customers, we are compromising our margins. But from next year, things will be normal,” Sarkar said.
Mintu Pal said that last year idols were approximately priced between R 30,000 and R 2,50,000. “Considering an average increase of 20%, the same idols should cost between R 36,000 and R 3,00,000. But we may not demand that hike and settle for an average increase between R 3,000 and R 10,000 this year,” he said.