NOT JUST RELIGION, BUT REALIZING ITS ECONOMIC IMPACT

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Armed with the UNESCO label of Indian cultural heritage, Durga Puja, is today one of the epicenters of the biggest industries (in terms of people involvement and money) that revolves around and produces a market of a worth thousands of Crores of Rupees and provides employment directly and indirectly to thousands of skilled and unskilled workers in West Bengal. After UNESCO recognition, it is time to better coordinate and present this biggest festival as the biggest job opportunity for thousands of people. Industries that thrive on Durga Puja include idol making, pandal, lighting and illumination, food and drink, publishing, tourism industry, and advertising revenue. Also, the five-day festival involves people from different sectors – the skilled and unskilled sectors and they are electricians, security guards, priests, dhakis, laborers associated with transporting idols and those related to arrangement of ‘bhog’ (food offered to the Goddess) and catering. “Not only the core businesses of Durga puja, but also the fashion, textile, footwear, cosmetics and retail sectors are boosted by people’s buying frenzy, while literature and publishing, touring, travel, hotel and catering and film and entertainment businesses are benefiting from a sudden surge in sales during Durga Puja festivities,” said the chairman of Forum For Durgotsab (FFD) , Kajal Sarkar, to PTI. FFD is an umbrella organization of 400 community pujas. “Our estimate is that transactions around the festival could reach Rs 50,000 crore this year,” he said. “After two years of pandemic, revelers, this time, threw themselves into the pandal with renewed fervor, while businesses are also liberal this time in sponsorship, and their spending is at least Rs 500 crore. from festival is the unique selling proposition,” Sarkar said. Before Durga Puja became a national symbol, it was a marker of pride and class for the merchants of Bengal in the 18th century. Gradually it spread, and in the 20th century it gained popularity at the community and national levels. This involved the public organization of Durga Puja at Pandals or temporary sheds used for public meetings.

WHAT IS INTANGIBLE CULTURAL HERITAGE?
According to Unesco, cultural heritage does not stop at monuments or cultural objects. It also includes traditions that people inherit from their ancestors, such as oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, or the knowledge and skills needed to produce traditional crafts. In the wake of increasing globalization, Unesco asserts that intangible cultural heritage is an important factor in maintaining cultural diversity. An ability to understand intangible cultural heritage helps different communities to engage in intercultural dialogue and encourages mutual respect for different ways of life. The Intangible Cultural Heritage List attempts to safeguard those items that require urgent action to keep them alive. The list also helps mobilize international support and cooperation for stakeholders to take safeguarding action.

BACK TO MONEY MATTERS
Economist Debnarayan Sarkar believes that Durga Puja is a consumption-oriented activity and has a multiplier effect on the gross domestic product of the state. “A study by Assocham in 2013 showed the industry size of Durga Puja to be Rs 25,000 crore and estimated that it increased by around 35%. If we consider this, the puja industry is now expected to fetch around Rs 70,000 crore. We need a proper study to assess the value of the puja economy,” he said. “Compared to the length and breadth of Durga Pujas, we are sure that its contribution to the economy of the state is equal to or greater than the contribution of Carnival in Rio de Janeiro to the economy of the Brazilian city. and the cherry blossom festival in Japan,” Sarkar, a former professor at Presidency University. “The grandeur around the festival entails transactions of at least Rs 40,000 crore and provides employment for at least two three lakh people across the state as activities for the festivities start three to four months in advance” , said Partho Ghosh, president of the FFD. Puja committees act as micro-economic facilitators, said Ghosh, who has been associated with community puja for 52 years. The British Council conducted a study, mapping the creative economy around Durga Puja 2019, which showed that Durga Puja accounts for 2.58% of the state’s GDP. “We commissioned research for the Government of West Bengal which estimated the total value of creative industries around Durga Puja in the state in 2019 at around Rs 33,000 crore (USD 4.5 billion). It established two things – a benchmark for similar research in the future and a methodology to conduct similar research for other festivals or even for the entire creative economy of West Bengal, and in other other states as well,” British Council, East and Northeast India, said director Debanjan Chakrabarti. It is time to realize the magnanimity of Durga Puja and plan the whole operation more professionally to attract tourists from all over the world and make it more salable to the world and a global event to attract tourists from all over the world to increase its economic impact.

THE OPINIONS EXPRESSED BY THE AUTHOR ARE PERSONAL

ROBIN ROY The author is Senior Journalist and former Editor, First India

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