Despite the ban on PoP Ganeshas, Bengaluru is keen on these colourful and glittering idols, and sellers say they have to refuse custom regularly. Traders say they make their profits from outside Karnataka; KSPCB laments over nominal penalty fee decided by BBMP.
BENGALURU: Despite the High Court order upholding the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board's prohibition on the use of plaster of paris (PoP) and painted idols in the upcoming Ganesha festival, demand for it has not died down in the state. Sellers in and around the city say they are refusing custom and making their profits from sales to clientele outside Karnataka.
Every year, Bengaluru buys around 5 lakh Ganesh idols, of which 75% orders are for PoP ones, informs M Srinivas, owner of Vinayaka and Co. Srinivas claims to be the biggest manufacturer of idols in the city. "I have 15,000 PoP idols left from last year," says the 60-year-old, who has two units at Gollahalli village, in Nelamangala Tehsil.
His son-in-law Guru Deva who is also in the same business says that he gets over 100 calls a day asking for PoP idols. "There are close to 5,000 Ganesh utsava manadalis in Bengaluru. I already have an order of 500 PoP idols from them," says Guru. He has around 400 PoP Ganesh idols on standby, to be sold to clients in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. He says that he will refuse customers from Karnataka but "if we don't sell it to them, then they will get it from Hyderabad".
Srinivas laments that last year he lost his profits to Cauvery agitation. "I couldn't send my idols to Tamil Nadu because the police had laid restrictions on the transport... and this year, we have this verdict. What am I supposed to do," he says.
Labour costs have gone up as well. Srinivas, who has been in the idol business for 72 years, had to get 500 workers from West Bengal to abide by the High Court's verdict
that insists on the sale of clay Ganesha. "I could not find craftspeople who know how to work with clay in this state, our employees knew only how to work with PoP," he says.
Guru informs that he has made 500 clay Ganeshas to be sold in Bengaluru. "I have no takers yet though," he says, insisting that despite the ban the demand on PoP is growing. "KSPCB tells us, don't put paint also on idols. Now, without colours, who will buy," adds Guru.
Srinivas insists that the colours he has used on clay Ganeshas are vegetable dyes and the touch ups on PoP idols too are eco-friendly. However, City Express noticed bottles of synthetic aluminium dye at the plant and use of gold sparkle on idols.
The 60-year-old manufacturer says that the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board informed him about the ban in January. "That was too late," he says. Srinivas also feels betrayed by the government. A source close to the manufacturer estimates loss to traders across Karnataka at `50,000 crore and unsold stock at 2 lakh PoP idols.
‘We won't allow another year of exemption’
Lakshman, chairman of the KSPCB, says that manufactures were given "ample time" to clear stock last year. "We won't allow another year of exemption," he says. This year all deputy commissioners and gram panchayats have been notified of the strict implementation of the ban, adds Lakshman. Strict checks will be maintained at immersion points and only clay idols will be allowed to be dipped in the water bodies. “When the Modi government put a beef ban, I didn't see any strict adherence to it. But this ban on religious idols is being implemented so seriously by officials,” says Srinivas, adding that he is still waiting for permission to sell in Bengaluru.