Scam tremor jolts Goddess of Grandeur
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Scam tremor jolts Goddess of Grandeur

Chitgate likely to hit subscriptions

kolkata Updated: Jun 11, 2013 13:31 IST
Sudeshna Pal
Sudeshna Pal
Hindustan Times

The multi-crore Saradha chit fund scam is likely to hit Kolkata’s most loved festival – Durga Puja – this year.

Chit fund entities such as Saradha, I-Core, Rose Valley and many more, which used to offer generous funds to the city pujas, especially those which enjoyed patronages of the heavyweights of the ruling Trinamool Congress, have either backed out or been reluctant to sponsor the pujas this year.

As a result, Kumartuli and other idol-makers’ enclaves in the state are apprehensive of a huge loss this year as the big pujas in the city are suffering from fund crunch after the Saradha meltdown.

“We don’t think we’ll be able to earn even half the profit figures of last year. The chit fund scam has not only hit the puja organisers but has also created uncertainties for us,” said Babu Pal, president and leader of Kumortuli Mritshilpi Samanvaya Samity (KMSS).

He said that organisers are frantically searching for alternative sources for funds and are planning to curtail their budgets. “An organiser, who spent more than Rs 3 lakh on an idol last year, is ordering one worth not more than Rs 1 lakh this year,” said Pal.

Naktala Udayan Sangha of which state industry minister Partha Chatterjee is the chairman, is looking for sponsors that can help them build a terracotta pandal ornate with silver. Another famous south Kolkata puja - Ballygunge Cultural Association, which is famous for bringing together celebrities for sindoor khela or dhaak competition, is also curtailing their budget this year. However, the organisers blamed it on the inflation.

“We never took any money from any chit fund firm. But since the market has been affected by the scam, we reduced our budget to around Rs 22 lakh compared to last year’s Rs 30 lakh,” said Anjan Ukil, organiser of Ballygunge Cultural Association Durga puja. With a few months to go for Durga Puja, this year, Kumartuli artisans are not even half busy like previous years.

“More than 4,000 casual labourers from the districts come to Kumartuli every year. But this year only 1,000 has turned up till date. Thus, we have not been able to start the work,” said Ranjit Sarkar, secretary of KMSS.

Sharod Info, an online forum that archives data on Durga puja in the city every year, feels that the organisers of prominent pujas are distancing themselves from any unknown investors and are also reducing their budget to avoid media glare.

“After the Saradha scam, the puja organisers are really concerned about how to raise funds, especially those which are reportedly backed by ministers and political leaders. The organisers are very cautiously weighing other options. They are not even sharing much information this year lest it leads to further media exposure,” said Akash Mondal, founder of Sharod Info.

First Published: Jun 11, 2013 13:21 IST