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Craftsmen struggle to sell Ravana effigies after Rajasthan government bans the use of firecrackers, line the streets to protest: Details

With tears in their eyes and concerns about an uncertain future, the artisans have lined up on prominent streets in Jaipur, in an effort to sell the Ravana effigies created by them.

Months after the second wave of coronavirus outbreak, India is still reeling from the economic and social disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the disruption has disproportionately affected the poorer sections of society. The crisis is also compounded by harebrained decisions made by the government.

The Rajasthan state’s decision to ban crackers ahead of the festival season is one such decision that has spelt doom for the poor craftsmen who were already buckling under the economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.

These artisans, who barely survived on subsistence, were into the business of selling effigies of Ravana for Dussehra celebrations. But now, after the state government placed a ban on the crackers, craftsmen are hard-pressed to find customers to sell their creations. The demand for the figurines of Ravana dropped dramatically after the Congress-ruled state government has enforced a strict law to proscribe bursting crackers.

With tears in their eyes and concerns about an uncertain future, the artisans have lined up on prominent streets in Jaipur, in an effort to sell the Ravana effigies created by them. The concerns are also amplified by the fact that last year too, the artisans had a rough season on account of lockdown imposed in the state in the wake of coronavirus outbreak.

This year, they had expected to make up for the losses endured during the last year and stabilise their financial condition, but the government’s order to ban firecrackers has served as a body blow to the craftsmen’s efforts to ward off the possibility of slipping into the state of grinding poverty.

With the COVID-19 cases receding, the artisans had anticipated a healthy demand of Ravana effigies to celebrate Dussehra this year. They bought raw materials in advance and started preparing for Ravana effigies. However, little did they know that the meagre savings that they had invested in buying raw materials for Ravana effigies would also be destroyed following the ban on firecrackers by the Ashok Gehlot-led Rajasthan government.

Vinod Gujrati, an artisan who came to Jaipur from Gujarat to make effigies of Ravana, says making profits is now secondary for him. All he is concerned with is recovering the investment he had made for preparing Ravana effigies.

Before the ban was imposed, Vinod had already bought raw materials like wooden bamboo, paper, cloth etc. So far, he has managed to sell only 10-15 effigies of Ravana, a far cry from what he used to sell in the past. According to him, he still needs to sell a lot many Ravana effigies to recover his investment in raw materials.

Another craftsman Kailash Gujrathi says the cost of raw material has increased but the price for which Ravana effigies are sold have come down, owing to weak demand. In 2019, he sold effigies for Rs 1000 per piece but now he says customers want the effigies at a lower cost. He is also consumed by the concern that people would no longer have interest in Ravana effigies if they are stuffed with firecrackers. “Children are interested in watching Ravana-Dahan because firecrackers are used in them. I’m afraid they would no longer be interested in attending Ravana-Dahan now,” he said.

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