BENGALURU: As the city gets ready to celebrate Ganesha Chathurthi, environment-conscious citizens and the municipal corporation have been working on promoting clay idols and doing away with Plaster of Paris (PoP) ones. But their pleas seem to be going unnoticed as street vendors continue to thrive on business from PoP idols. Vendors across the city, including Pottery Town, Malleswaram and Basvanagudi, point to customers themselves preferring ‘colourful' PoP idols over clay ones.
The Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) had been planning to impose restrictions on the height of these idols. Officials had also given directions only in August this year to the municipality to do a survey and shut down units that are manufacturing PoP idols. Though BBMP had conducted raids and seized PoP idols earlier this month, there has been no strict enforcement.
When CE visited several spots in the city where the idols are being sold ahead of the festive season, we found life-size idols (above five to six feet) mostly made of paper mache or PoP. “Not only is it difficult to make clay idols as large as six feet, customers also fear that they will break during transportation or installation at pandals. And for mega events, it is not the preferred material,” Anthony, a shopkeeper in Pottery Town, says. Customers, he says, are willing to shell out “any price” for a PoP idol, which they believe has a better finishing. “It’s durable and does not develop cracks. Even if we sell clay idols at a cheaper rate, customers opt for PoP ones. So why should we keep clay idols?"
Manjunath, another vendor, says that he sells a 6-feet clay idol for `20,000 and a PoP for `14,000. “Even though the cost of PoP idols is higher, people still opt for them, since there are not many variants available in clay. They are light and easy to carry," he says, adding, “The cost is almost the same. It’s the make and finish that matter to customers,” he says.
Made in Mumbai, sold in Bengaluru
A shopkeeper on Malleswaram 8th Cross says that the rates have increased this year compared to last year owing to transportation and labour costs. These idols are bought by sellers from Mumbai, Puducherry and other parts of Maharashtra and Karnataka. "We buy them from other places, and hence, we have to pay labour and transportation charges. The charges go up every year," she adds. But most shopkeepers in Malleswaram were ready to bargain and reduce the price.
Close to this vendor, another says that he keeps clay ones outside the store and the PoP ones inside a shed. "The smaller PoP idols sold out quickly. I wasn't sure about the demand, so I procured a limited stock," he says. A 4-ft clay idol costs `4,500 and PoP costs `9,000, he adds.
On sales this year, Anthony says, "The demand is the same as last year. Only if the government imposes a country-wide ban will it be effective. As long as it's available, there will still be demand for it."
BBMP, vendors have conflicting views
BBMP commissioner Manjunath Prasad says the corporation has been appealing to the citizens to buy clay idols. "We have been building awareness about issues with using PoP idols. People should understand the impact of using them on the environment. Next year, we will impose a complete ban on PoP idols."
To our query on the increased demand for PoP idols, he counters, "But this year, more number of clay idols are in the market. People are opting for clay ones."