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"No point leaving the poor to starve", Subhasish Choudhury writes, "Let puja be organised"

“অসীম ছন্দে বেজে উঠে রুপলোক ও রসো লোকে আনে নবভাবোমধুরির সঞ্জীবন
তাই আনন্দিতা শ্যামলী মাতৃকার চিন্ময়ী কে মৃন্ময়ী তে আবাহন”

Every year, we wait so desperately for Durga Puja. From the month of August only, the countdown for the remaining days of Puja begins. The excitement strikes real strong. But also, the Puja has different interpretations for different sections of society and the dimensions increase at this point of time, when we are going through a pandemic but at the same time, through a low economic growth.

To begin with from the economical point of view, even if we exclude the pandemic part, more or less is all about luxury for the richer sections and a moment for some extra income for the financially weaker sections. Let me tell you how. Who donates the maximum of the money for the huge Puja Pandals and theme-based idols, that have excellent crafts and visuals? The list begins from the rich businessmen to MP, MLA, Ward Commissioner and many more. The money received by the Puja committee members is then spent on Pandal construction, idol formation, buying ingredients like vegetables, fruits, rice grains, dal for offering to the Devi and for distributing ‘Prasadam’ among the devotees. The list also adds up the things required for doing ‘Havan’ in almost 300-500 or more small and big Puja pandals, only in our district of Cachar.

You will hardly find the poor people buying new clothes for Puja but the rich or upper-middle-class sections wouldn’t even stop anywhere below 7-8 new attire for Puja. Along with that remains the perfume, eyeliner, shoes, earrings, necklace, bangles, lipstick and many more. Don’t you feel about the size of the flow of cash by this? Everything you buy has got some producers, who have to buy their raw materials from the most economically deprived sections only. The sudden rise in demand during the Puja helps many small businesses expand themselves. When a small business expands, they take in more workers and hence generate more employment.

Let’s dig a bit more in. For rice grains, dal, vegetables you depend on Fatak Bazar. The Fatak Bazar depends on their suppliers. Their suppliers or the big storehouses depend ultimately on the farmers. Similarly, your earrings, lipstick, perfume industries have several workers working for manufacturing them. Just because you can afford a high price lipstick, doesn’t mean the girl next door, the daughter of the poor father has a similar ability. She shall search for the lipstick with the lowest price available. A girl who would otherwise not even buy lipstick because of her financial condition will definitely save to buy one on the occasion of Durga Puja. Don’t you think this step also favours the small lipstick company that is selling lipsticks at that low cost because their company is very much unknown and no one favours buying their products? This will not just help that company to survive for the next many months but would also save the job of many workers employed there, who would otherwise get fired if the company fails to make reasonable profit and income.

The same goes for the Idol makers. They wait eagerly for the festive season to earn money from some big assignments. The level at which Durga Puja helps circulating the cash in society is unimaginable. You buy 2 clothes less than your rich friend. Another friend of yours buys 2 clothes less than what you have bought because his family income is much lower than you even. What does this say about the cash flow? The rich spend more money and they should. They get their luxury in return of money. Similarly, the middle class spends less, according to their ability. The poor who has a low-income job or a small roadside business, farmland or even working as a truck or tempo driver to load and unload Idols, food ingredients or anything for the matter of fact, earns from the money spent by the rich and middle class and that helps him survive for the rest of the year.

The tent house, the light and soundbox providers, the cooks who prepare the food for offering, or Prasadam all have their own earnings and share from the Durga Puja.

She is not ‘Anondomoyee’ by chance but by deed. She brings food to the deprived. She drains the money from rich to poor, which no govt can even facilitate.

I don’t know what would be the guidelines for Puja this year. But I would request the Administration, Govt and Social groups to provide guidelines or advice keeping in mind that at least most of the people get to survive one more year with food and money and we don’t kill their only source of major income. We need to survive the pandemic and its after-effects as well. And this question of survival should not be self-centric but about all sections of the society. I can live without Puja for one year that doesn’t mean everyone else can. Masks, social distancing, 10 people at a time for offering Anjali or Anjali through loudspeakers for 50 people spread over a large area, maintaining social distancing could be arranged. Prasad preparation only after the COVID test could be carried out. If the people and Govt could co-operate, the Puja can surely be held without leaving the poor to starve in the Pandemic.

The author of this article is a student of Guru Charan College and a member of the Hindu Chantra Samhati

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