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Artisans in two minds over lead-free colour

KOLKATA, 19 SEPT: Despite several campaigns by the West Bengal Pollution Control Board (WBPCB) to promote lead-free colours among idol-makers and even after many Puja committees have ordered for idols painted with such colours, the artisans are still apprehensive about using it this Puja.
The artisans have earlier tried the colours on Manasa and Ganesha idols but they are reluctant to use it on Durga idols even after WBPCB and various paint companies distributed environment-friendly colours for free. Mr Babu Pal, secretary of the Kumartuli Mrit Shilpa Sanskritik Samity, said that the artisans are scared to use lead-free colours on Durga idols since if anything goes wrong even with one idol, the artisan who has made it will incur great loss. He said that they have no knowledge about the solubility of the colours. When they paint an idol, each coat has to be calculated as colours produce one type of glaze on the face of the idol while another when applied on its hands. The colours mostly used are various shades of yellow. Each shade has to be achieved by mixing certain fixed amount of colour and they are still unsure how the lead-free colours would turn out to be after being mixed.
WBPCB distributed free colours worth Rs 1 lakh to the artisans urging them to test the colours during Manasa puja. Mr Pal, however, said that the colours provided were inadequate. A private paint company has also distributed lead -free colours. But Mr Pal said that the company gave five litres of lead-free colours to only 151 artisans in Kumartuli. Five litres of colours is used to paint eight to ten idols while each artisan makes 30 idols on an average per Durga Puja.
The artisans had previously avoided using lead-free colours stating that it would hike the price of each idol by an average of Rs 600 and the Puja committees may not be ready to pay the extra cash.This year, however, 450 Puja committees have ordered for idols painted with lead-free colours. Some such committees are from Kaikhali and Shyampukur. Last year only 32 idols were made using lead-free colours. Mr Pal said: “We have asked the companies to bring down the price of lead-free colours. Once this is done, it will help us phase out lead-based colours totally.” Earlier, use of lead-free colours by Durga Puja organisers was made a criterion for the ‘Shera Sharad Nirman Puja Puraskar’ given away by the department of environment and WBPCB.

Soma Basu

Soma Basu

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