GUWAHATI, Aug 28 - Caught up between the snapped rail connectivity and the impact of prevailing market conditions, the idol makers of Guwahati are in a dilemma to figure out a way for maintaining profit margin and retaining customer base this festive season.
With less than four weeks left for the grand Durga Puja, the artisans are feeling the pinch of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on several essential items required for idol-making.
Durga Puja is starting from September 26 and would continue till September 30.
Busy wrapping a shiny silk dhoti around the Biswakarma idol with his assistants in a small idol-making workshop at Panbazar, Niranjan Paul is annoyed at being asked about the market conditions!
�Some people think idols are all about clay and hay. The other day, a customer argued why the rates are high when clay idols are exempted from GST. Where would one get the shine and sheen without that varnish oil and the pearly glow of the paints, which makes the idols look divine? The maximum number of weapons, ornaments and drapes come from Kolkata and Surat respectively, which has been hit due to floods. If there is no hike, the work has to be substandard,� he said.
The 28 per cent GST levied on paints and varnishes (including enamels and lacquers), 18 per cent on metallic pigments and flakes and 28 per cent on putty corroborate Paul�s concerns.
Since 18 per cent GST is applicable on man-made yarn, brocade and other clothes used to dress up the idols are also costlier.
�Many regular customers booked the idols months back. Now we have to deliver them at the pre-negotiated rates and think about our profits as well,� another artisan from Pandu area said.
As if the surge in the cost of accessories adorning the idols of gods and goddesses was not enough, the idol-makers and Durga Puja organisers are wary about the restoration of rail link, the lingering of which will have a telling impact on Puja grandeur in Assam.
According to Tapas Naha, general secretary of Kalibari Rest Camp Durga Puja Samity, the committee is contemplating to bring down the cost this time owing to less collection of donations and lukewarm response from sponsors.
�Less number sponsors have come up this time, compelling us to cut the cost. Moreover, the costs are high due to new taxation and prevailing confusion in the market. Last year, our budget was around Rs 24 lakh, which was quite good,� Naha added.
More than the costs, the movement of artisans and technicians for giving the finishing touches to the idols and grand-scale pandals are a bigger headache for the Geetanagar Sarbajanin Durga Puja Samity.
�The cost hike is on expected lines, but as we have planned to make grand idol this time with added height, the contract has been fixed with experts from outside Assam, nearly four months back. To give the finishing touches to the idols, we might need to bring some of the artisans via flights,� Mrinmoy Deka of the committee mentioned.