With less than a month left for Bengal's greatest festival Durga Puja, artisans at Kumartuli in north Kolkata, the hub of idol-makers, are struggling to finish their assignments because of a labour shortage.
"Labour shortage has hit us badly at a time when we have so much work in hand and little manpower to finish it," "Kumartuli Mritshilpi Sanskritik Samiti" joint secretary Ranjit Sarkar told PTI.
Sarkar said that people these days were no longer interested in this kind of work as they were getting jobs nearer to their homes under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
Kumartuli normally get labourers and idol-makers from Nadia's Krishnanagar and Shantipur areas, but as they are getting Rs 300 daily under the MGNERGA scheme, more than what they get here, they have stopped coming, according to Sarkar.
Many labourers also travelled to other states where they got a better daily wage, Sarkar said, adding some even started their own business.
"We cannot pay them much compared to what they are paid in other states. And then there is the 100 days work...This has taken away most of the labourers who are now unwilling to come and join us," Sarkar said.
"Earlier they used to come in huge numbers which now has come down to hardly 40 to 50... Actually they are more interested in permanent jobs but not with a six month's assignment like this," senior artisan Nemai Pal stated.
Their problem is compounded by the fact that this year's puja will be organised earlier than usual.
"We don't have the time to breathe now... These days we are working from six in the morning and are continuing till midnight again to start very early the next day," Pal said.
"Generally we get around 20 days' time after the Viswakarma Puja (September 17). But this year we have only seven days to finish our work," another artisan said.
Durga Puja is scheduled from September 30 (Sasti) while October 3 is Dashami.
"This year we have received plenty of orders, much more compared to what we generally get. We had to turn down many orders because of the labour shortage," Pal, who was working on 30 idols, said.