Nearly a month ahead of Ganesh Utsav, Ganesh idol makers in Maharashtra's Mumbai said they are reeling under the effect of COVID-19 restrictions. Business is down for the second consecutive year, claim some idol makers.
"Though the situation is slightly better this year, the demand is still way below pre-COVID levels. Input cost has also risen," said Sunil Bambulkar, an idol maker whose family has been in the business for over 30 years.
In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Maharashtra government restricted the height of the idols in public celebrations to four feet while those in homes to two feet, in order to reduce much fanfare.
"We have completely stopped making bigger idols due to government's restriction and this has greatly affected the business," said Bambulkar.
He further said that earlier people used to order fancy Ganesh idols from foreign countries also. "Now, even that has stopped," he said.
Another idol maker Kaushik Prashant reiterated a similar opinion. He said, "Because of the restrictions imposed by the government, the business is down." He further emphasised that last year, when the pandemic first hit the country, severe losses were incurred.
"Demand is good compared to last year but not up to the expectations. Before COVID, I used to make around 150 Ganesh idols every year but this year I am keeping this number below 100. Though demand for clay idols has increased," said Prashant.
Last year as well, the celebrations of the festival were subdued due to the rampant surge in COVID cases in the state. For the first time in history, Lalbaughcha Raja Ganeshotsav Mandal had decided not to hold the festivities in the wake of the pandemic.
Ganesh Chaturthi, a ten-day festival that starts on the fourth day of the Hindu lunisolar calendar month Bhadrapada, will start on September 10 this year.
It is celebrated with much fanfare in Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra with lakhs of devotees converging into mandals to seek blessing from Lord Ganesh.
According to the data released by Union Health Ministry, there are 78,700 active cases of COVID-19 in Maharashtra while the death toll due to the infection has gone up to 1,33,038.