How Goa managed to ban PoP idols

State's carrot and stick policy makes ban effective

By Aparna Pallavi
Published: Friday 20 September 2013

Goa is the only state in the country where a total ban on PoP idols has not met with a hostile reaction from the artisan community. The ban, imposed by the state’s Department of Science, Technology and Environment under Section 15 of the Environment Protection Act 1986, bans the manufacture, stocking, transport, display and sale of PoP idols, and has penal provisions. Offenders also stand to face cancellation of  licences for their establishments. The ban is renewable annually and has been in force for five years now.

There are two reasons for the unquestioned acceptance of the ban by the artisan community, says Levinson Martins, who currently holds charge as director of the department. “Firstly, clay idols are not made in Goa, but imported from outside,” says he, “And secondly, the Goa Handicrafts, Rural and Small Scale Industries Development Corporation (GHRSSIDC) has also introduced a subsidy scheme for making clay idols.” Under this scheme, every artisan is given a subsidy of Rs 100 per idol for a maximum of 250 idols. Martins, coincidentally, is also managing director of GHRSSIDC.

“This move has been received very positively by the artisan community,” says Devendra Walwalkar, editor of the Panjim-based weekly Gomant Warsa. “This way each idol maker can earn a substantial Rs 25,000 per season from the government apart from his usual earnings. It has definitely encouraged clay idol-making.” Walwalkar says the department has also maintained rigorous checking routines to prevent PoP idols from making their way into the state.

This year, informs Martin, Rs 58 lakh has been paid in subsidies for clay idols.

No regulations on paints
However, Goa has no regulations regarding the colours used in idols, informs idol-maker Vilas Kunkolekar from Bicholim, the major idol-making hub of Goa. “Mostly idol-makers use poster colours and apply a coat of varnish to the idols to give an oil paint-like finish,” he says.

This is fractionally less hazardous than chemical paints, but Kunkolekar says that more and more artisans are now drawn towards chemical paints. The culprit, he says, is illegally imported PoP idols. “Despite government efforts, these idols are making their way into the market, and also gaining popularity because they are lighter, cheaper, and more attractively coloured.”

“If we are to compete with these idols in the market, we have no choice but to use more glossy and attractive paints,” he says.

Kunkolekar says that in view of the rising competition, government should raise the subsidy on clay idols to Rs 200 per idol. “We have to sell in a market that is growing more competitive by the day,” says he, “And if we are to do it in an environment-friendly way, we have to spend more time on designing and finishing. A raised subsidy would help.

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