Ban on public celebrations lands idol makers in a spot

While decision of Police Dept. is pragmatic, artisans are worried about a looming financial crisis

The announcement of the Visakhapatnam City Police banning public celebrations of Vinayaka Chavithi has sent idol makers into a tizzy, who were putting finishing touches on many large idols of Lord Ganesha that they were hoping to sell this year.

The city police on Wednesday announced that they would not accord permission for setting up of Ganesh pandals in public places in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, and appealed to citizens to celebrate the festival indoors.

While the decision of the police has been welcomed by the public as pragmatic and timely, it has come as a shocker to the idol makers who are now left wondering about their future course of action.

A number of makers have already moulded idols of heights varying between two and seven feet, and most of these idols have already been booked by various pandal organisers. The artisans,who are already reeling under losses since last year ever since the first wave of COVID-19 swept the country, are worried that they would land in an even deeper financial crisis if they are not paid their money.

This is the second year in a row that public pandals have been prohibited due to the pandemic, which has taken a toll on the artisans’ finances.

Though they feel that large public gatherings are not advisable at this stage keeping in view the looming threat of a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, they opined that pandals could have been allowed by restricting the number of visitors. They say that as all sectors have opened up, including educational institutions, permission could have been given for setting up pandals as it would have spurred much-needed economic activity.

“We have received advance payments for over 25 idols, some as tall as seven feet. I will have to wait and watch how my customers respond to this development,” said A Raju (name changed), an idol maker from Waltair. Another idol maker from One Town area of the city said that anticipating some restrictions on public celebrations, he had restricted the height of the idols to a maximum of five feet. The idol maker said that he has received 15 to 20 orders of Ganesha idols ranging from three to five feet in height, while around 30 idols are under three feet tall. Idol makers have already come up with different themes and are now worried about what to do next.

Some idol makers opined that the State government should have announced the decision to ban public celebrations last month itself. “It is a bit too late on their part to announce the ban on public celebrations now,” they said. “Many of us could land in hefty financial debts as we have already invested huge amounts of money,” they added.

On the brighter side, many idol makers are hoping that though the public pandals have been banned, they are expecting orders from apartment associations and gated communities.

“We are also hopeful that the public would come forward to buy idols from us, which would give us some solace.”

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