Loss of income, fear of spike in Covid-19 cases as India heads towards festive season
Idol makers across the country are concerned after several states, including Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Maharashtra, imposed restrictions on the height of idols and the size of the pandals ahead of Durga Puja and Navratri amid the coronavirus pandemic.
At the same time, experts have said that the festive season could lead to a rise in the number of cases of the coronavirus disease across the country, which has seen more than 6.9 million infections and over 100,000 related deaths so far.
The pandemic has impacted not only the worshippers but also those who depend upon festivities as a source of income. The festive season is also a time when people across socioeconomic sectors seek to earn and sometimes it is the only time, they are able to make money for the entire year.
An idol maker in Maharashtra said sales have dropped by 50%, according to news agency ANI. “Restrictions placed on the height of the idols are leading to a lower generation of income. Customers are also less this year. Sales have gone down by almost 50%,” the idol maker said.
Gujarat also has disallowed Garba during Navratri. The popular folk dance of Gujarat is performed with passion among the citizens during the festival. It has also imposed restrictions on the number of people visiting the pandal and has also introduced a time limit on the prayers. On October 25, chief minister Vijay Rupani released a statement saying, “The nine-day traditional state-level Navratri festival, organised by the state government every year will not be celebrated in the larger public interest due to the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic situation this year.”
The National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has warned the Delhi government and instructed them to speak to community leaders to ensure that during the Durga Puja, Dussehra and Chhath are celebrated in a low-key fashion. Several puja committees in New Delhi, which has garnered attention over the past few years for its Durga Puja marquees, have said they will hold low key celebrations this year.
Tamal Rakshit, an executive committee member of the Durga Puja committee in Chittaranjan Park’s B-Block, pointed out that community celebrations are a huge risk and coronavirus disease cases may see a spike following the festivities. “Community celebrations involve immense risk for both the organisers and the devotees. No matter how much prepared the organisers are, the situation can get out of hand in multiple ways. We have to be scientific here. We have decided to keep the celebrations low-key with no idols and cultural programme,” Rakshit told HT.
However, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said that Covid-19 should not dampen the festival spirit and that the pandemic should be put in lockdown. The eastern state has issued guidelines for social distancing and has already cancelled the Vijaya Dashami carnival in order to stop the spread of Covid-19.
Idol makers in Kolkata’s potter colony, Kumartuli, have taken precautions to ensure that the area which has been relatively free of coronavirus disease continues to remain so. But some of them pointed out to other issues.
Sujit Paul, an office-bearer of Mritshilpo Sanskriti Samiti (KMSS), a body that represents the idol makers, while speaking to PTI pointed out to the lack of labourers this year. “Many labourers from districts, who had gone home during the lockdown, did not return amid safety concerns. The artisans, this time, have received 40% fewer orders when compared to the year before. But their hands are full owing to the dearth of labourers,” Paul said.
Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan after speaking with activists from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has also lifted restrictions.
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