Ganesha Chaturthi is celebrated in a grand manner in Mumbai and Maharashtra. As the city welcomes Ganesha the Elephant God with religious fervor, Afternoon Voice interacted with the idol makers from the city to know about their views about the festival, hardships faced by them while carrying out their business, and the impact of inflation and GST on artisans. They said that Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations have undergone tremendous change nowadays and people’s interest has seen a slipping trend. They also expressed concern about the commercialisation of the festival.
Mrs. Geeta, proprietor of Siddhi Art, a firm manufacturing Ganesh idols, stated that people bargain with the idol makers and urge them to reduce the price of the idols and as a result of this she has to incur losses due to less margin received on sale of idols. Since idol makers are working on a tight budget, hence, it becomes difficult for them to pay the salaries of the artisans. She asserted that the plastic ban imposed by the government has not impacted her as the government has permitted the usage of plastic of different kind required during idol making. There is a variation of Rs 5,000 on big Ganesh idols than previous years. Idol makers are hit hard due to the inflation as workers are demanding extra payment. Since workers are only employed with the firm for three months, Geeta has no option but to pay the amount demanded by them. Lack of large space for the idol makers is also a concern as per Geeta.
Shubham Vishwasrao, another proprietor of Kandivali Ajinkya Arts said that the government’s plastic ban has not impacted the idol makers. Shubham is using micro-plastic for covering idols. The government has provided alternatives to the idols makers for using different kinds of plastic for covering Ganesha idols. The introduction of GST has not had any effect on the price of Ganesha idols but it has an impact on the raw materials used for making idols. He complained that idols makers are not getting a better price for the idols. Artisans profit margin has been reduced due to GST. He agreed that the idol makers have been affected due to the inflation as transportation charges have increased due to rising fuel prices. Shubham said that large and smaller idols are prepared using eco-friendly techniques. He added that huge raw materials are required for the preparation of bigger idols thereby making them expensive. Labour charges also have increased. Most of the Ganesh idols are made of POP. Shubham is worried about the stiff competition prevalent in idol-making business as the idol makers’ margins are affected. When asked about whether he is able to get a better price for the idols sold by him, Shubham replied that it varies from orders made by the customers. Profit margin varies from year to year but the artisans are earning less profit as compared to last year. The imitation jewellery used for decorating the idols have become expensive.
Vivek Gurav, Sunil Jadhav, Kiran Sable, buyers from Navatarun Mitra Mandal MIDC, Gautam Nagar, Andheri East, are worried that they will have to incur losses if rain falls while transporting the Ganesh idol from the factories to their mandals due to plastic ban. The government’s decision to reduce GST has not made any difference to them as they have not received any proper bills for the idols. Factories manufacturing Ganesh idols levy GST as per their own calculations. Ganesh idols have become expensive as last year they were being sold for Rs 23,000 but this year they had to shell out Rs 50,000 for the same. Vivek stated that inflation has affected them as the government is not bothered about the welfare of the common man. According to them, the Ganesh Chaturthi festival has lost its sheen nowadays.
Bharat Apteka, the representative of Sarvajanik Ganeshostav Mandal, Tilak Nagar, Goregaon, welcomed the government’s decision to ban plastic as other countries too have banned them. However, he said that people are facing inconvenience due to lack of alternatives available instead of plastic. The government too didn’t create much awareness about the options available to people before banning plastic. When asked about GST’s impact on the price of Ganesha idols, he replied that his mandal is 60-years-old and they are filing returns every year. According to him, people must view the larger picture as the country is having a rising GDP growth. This year Bharat had purchased a small sized POP idol instead of buying eco-friendly idols. He is worried about people’s lack of interest in participating in Ganesha festival. Since people have adopted a digital lifestyle, they are not interested in celebrating festivals. Bharat said that this year’s Ganesh festival will be low-key as compared to last year as they will celebrate the festival for seven days instead of 11 days as celebrated in the past years. According to him, the main objective behind observing the Ganesha festival is bringing people together.
Ganesh Patil, the owner of Rohit Kala Kendra, Kandivali, said that the government’s decision to impose a ban of plastic has not affected his business. Ganesh stated that his mandal has reduced plastic usage by 50 per cent this year and don’t dispose them off on roads. He mentioned that even though idols have become expensive but customers don’t pay the quoted price to idol sellers. Prices vary as per demand. He agreed with his fellow idol makers that Inflation has affected their business as earlier he used to sell 250 to 300 idols but it has fallen to 100-115 idols this season. “Price hike has affected both the buyers and the sellers. Idols rates have become expensive due to rising raw material costs. The dearth of space and hardships around seeking permission from the civic body are another troubles in our business,” Ganesh added.