Despite a government resolution issued in May urging Ganesh idol-makers to switch to eco-friendly materials, most idols this season will continue to be made out of Plaster of Paris (POP).
With the Ganesh festival just a month away, idol-makers claim they will be able to follow the government’s orders only if they are provided with financial aid, training and studios that are open to them all through the year.
“Making idols from eco-friendly materials is very time consuming and expensive. We cannot complete hundreds of orders on time if we are allowed to rent studios only for four months in a year,” said Vijay Khatu, one of the many idol-makers who rent workshop spaces in Lalbaug before Ganesh season every year.
A small clay idol, says Khatu, can take at least four to five days to complete, while an artisan can make up to 10 POP idols a day. “The government conveniently makes demands of us, without looking into our needs,” said Khatu, who has sent several letters to the civic body and the state environment ministry asking for permanent studios in the past two years.
Besides studio space, idol-makers are also concerned about the cost and expertise required in making shadu (soluble clay) idols.
According to Parel idol-artiste Manohar Bagwe, a 1.5-feet POP Ganesh costs up to Rs 500, while a clay idol can cost Rs 1,500.
“Despite the price difference, there is a growing demand for eco-friendly Ganpatis. But these idols require more skilled artisans working on them, which we do not have,” said Bagwe.
Sachin Ahir, the minister of state for environment, claimed that the idol-makers are merely making excuses.
“The government order was meant to spread awareness by getting artistes to switch to eco-friendly materials as far as possible, but idol-makers don’t want to make the switch because POP is cheaper,” said Ahir.
He addded that neither the government nor the civic body can make arrangements for permanent studios. “It is an unreasonable demand.”