Image: The Telegraph
A neighbourhood in Kolkata will replace the traditional goddess idol with a migrant mother’s statue for this year’s Durga Puja to acknowledge the hardships suffered by labourers during the Covid-19 lockdown.
The artist Rintu Das sculpted an idol of a woman, carrying a shirtless toddler with two girls and a pot-bellied child with an elephant’s head in tow for the Barisha Club in Behala locality of the city. The organisation conducted many donation-drives during the lockdown to provide dry rations to low-income families in and around the city.
The graduate from the Government College of Art and Craft said the media coverage of the migrating labourers had left a deep impression in his mind especially the image of a mother looking for food, water and relief for her children. He said the migrating women were akin to goddesses at that point.
So, Das agreed to work on whatever budget the Club offered to create the weapon-less goddess who would also symbolise virtues of womanhood and motherhood that are celebrated every year during Durga Puja, West Bengal’s biggest celebration.
The artwork also went hand in hand with the Club’s annual theme of Tran (relief.) Thus, for the thirty-second year of the Club’s Puja celebration he decided to narrate the labourers’ crisis brought down by the Modi-government’s sudden lockdown announcement.
Meanwhile, the National Crime Records Bureau’s (NCRB) crime report of 2019 stated that crimes against women have been as high as ever in India. As per the report, 286 women were murdered with sexual assault, 7,162 suffered dowry deaths while 156 women survived acid attacks last year. It also stated that 4,05,861 cases of crime against women were registered in 2019, indicating a 7.3 percent increase in cases over 2018 which reported 3,78,236 cases.
When asked about government measures to address this issue, Union Minister Smriti Irani dismissed it saying law and order were the state government’s concern.
On the other hand, informal sector labourers keep glancing off government records ever since the Centre declared during the Parliament’s monsoon session that it does not maintain data on migrant labourers deaths. This despite the fact that the Union Minister of Labour and Employment reported over one crore unemployed labourers in India.
Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) worked closely with such migrants, providing them rations and essentials. SabrangIndia too reported extensively on the huge internal migration of the labourer families.
According to the Stranded Workers Action Network (SWAN) as many as 972 workers died till July 4. Yet, the Centre during the monsoon session declared it would offer no compensation to this section of society because they had kept no record of deaths during the lockdown.
In view of this, the attempt made by the Barisha Club to portray the labourer families’ mothers as ‘goddesses’ seems feeble. Nonetheless the idols influenced Club members who resolved to create a pandal that will have elements of a relief distribution camp while adhering to social distancing norms.
A founding member of the Club Debaprosad Bose told newspersons that the artist’s concept encouraged them to show empathy towards the workers’ situation. The idols will reach the Barisha Club pandal on October 15 from Diamond Harbour Road in Behala Sakherbazar. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee will inaugurate the event on October 16.