Fewer orders, fewer staff: sculptors, artisans work under the shadow of Covid at CR Park

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Despite Covid’s looming shadow over Durga Puja festivities this year, the artisans and workers at CR Park hope to make more profit than the year before. They say there is a little more work than last year, but a lot less than before.

Sitting in his workshop inside the Kali Mandir complex, Govind Nath (49) says he would make between 50 and 70 sets of idols until two years ago. This year, he made 13.

The height of the idols has also decreased – he was sculpting idols that were around 20 to 30 feet tall, while the tallest idol he carved this year is around 8 feet tall. “There has been very little work in the past two years. The price of the raw material, which is brought from Bengal, has increased, ”explains the third-generation sculptor, adding that his team of 12 workers has also decreased.

The Puja Committees made preparations with the DDMA guidelines in mind. Prodip Ganguly, secretary of the CR Park Kali Mandir Society, said: “Devotees will only be allowed to enter for worship. Aarti and pushpanjali will take place online… There are no restrictions on the height of the idols but as immersion processions are not allowed, the idol must be smaller than before.

Nath says most of the orders are for idols under 5 feet. An idol of about 3 feet would cost around Rs 25,000. However, its profit margin is as low as Rs 2,000.

On Sunday, he prepares the idols for departure with the help of two workers. A few of his orders come from CR Park and neighboring regions like Kalkaji and Alaknanda, while others go to Gurgaon. Once the idols are ready, they are wrapped in paper to make sure they don’t break.

On the other side of his workshop is a temporary shed filled with bundles of colorful fabrics that would be used for pandals. Sitting inside his sewing machine is Gourang Biswas (50), who sews the edges of the white fabric that will serve as a backdrop.

He says he learned “karigari” over 25 years ago and ran a small shop in his hometown in Nadia District, West Bengal. When he realized that there weren’t a lot of profits there, he moved to Delhi and started working on contracts with companies that make pandal decorations for various festivals. But because the festivities are small and there are fewer pandals this year, the number of working days is fewer and the daily wage is lower than before. He earns Rs 550 per day. Previously, with overtime during peak season, he was earning around Rs 750 per day.

For Sanjay Roy (53), an assistant responsible for various activities such as wearing and folding fabric, this is his first year working at CR Park. He lost his job as a peon in a private company due to the pandemic. He previously earned a salary of Rs 14,000 per month. Now he works for a daily salary of Rs 400 per day.

On a lot near the Chandralok cinema, not too far away, sculptors jostle to prepare the idols and then load them onto trucks. Here too, the number of idols is smaller and smaller than before. Bappa (35), who arrived from Nadia district about a month ago, says: “I have been coming to Delhi for four years. But I didn’t come last year. They will receive monthly salaries based on the number and size of the idols they make and sell, he adds.

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