Adding to the plight of city-based Ganesh idol makers, the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB), on Tuesday, has ordered a ban on the use of Plaster of Paris (PoP) to avoid polluting water bodies during immersions. The usage of thermocol and plastic have been banned as well.
Meanwhile, this new order has made the members of the artisan community upset. The nation-wide lockdown, imposed in the wake of the CoVID-19 pandemic, has already hit them hard. On the verge of completing their idols, many artisans have not received any order yet. Plus, most of these idols have been prepared using PoP. Now, a ban on PoPs will result in more losses, as they have already invested a lot in procuring the raw materials.
With the increase in the number of CoVID-19 cases, the commencement of the celebration is also uncertain.
Akhilesh More is a third generation idol maker. His family has been involved in this business for more than six decades now. As is the case every year, he has finished making the skeletons of hundreds of idols, which are presently being baked under the summer sun at his Parel workshop. Generally, the baking process needs to be completed before the arrival of monsoon.
This year, however, More is worried whether a single piece will be sold from his workshop.
"This new rule makes no sense. By the end of summer, we are done preparing the skeletons of the idols. Most of the idol makers have already invested a lot of money in the raw materials and we are not sure whether we will be able to sell any item this year," said More
"In our workshop, we have finished baking as many as 300 idols, which are then sold in the markets. However, seeing the number of cases rising, we are afraid whether a single piece of idol will be sold this year," he added.
The only alternative to PoP is clay. Quality clay required to make the idols comes from Gujarat. Due to the closure of state boundaries, artisans are unable to procure clay. "How are we going to make the idols if we don't have adequate raw materials reaching us?" said Kapil Kumar, an artisan.
"Clay idols are only feasible for making idols that are smaller in size. There is a chance of bigger idols getting cracked and breaking midway, as it will be heavy if made with clay," Kumar added.
The artisan also mentioned that many idol makers preserve extra clay every year, which has been already used for making clay lamps this year.
The workers are also worried that if the lockdown extends for one more month, monsoon season will begin. It will hinder the construction of idols, as the baking process needs to be completed by summer. "If the lockdown extends for one more month, we will face immense economic pressure. It's almost impossible to construct new idols during the monsoon season, as we need to bake the clay under the sun," said Kalpesh Kadam, a second generation sculptor, who has workshops in Kalyan and Malad.
"Other than idols, we also tend to make earthen lamps. Navratri, Ganpati and Diwali seasons are the time of the year when we make our profits that last throughout the year. Everything has come to a halt due to the pandemic," said Kadam.