Costs up, donations down, Ramlila reels under GST this year

Chandigarh: If you think Ravana, Kumbhakarna and Meghnad will scale new heights this Dussehra, you are mistaken. Don’t expect any mindboggling theatrics in the various Ramlilas across the town either.
Demonetization followed by the implementation of goods and services tax (GST) has upset the budget of many a Ram Leela committee in the city. Heads of various committees say they are focusing on cutting corners to manage the celebrations as usual, instead of introducing new elements.
They complain that the prices of raw material for making effigies have shot through the roof. Expenditure on various other things, including stage and presentation, has also seen a considerable increase.
Paramjit Singh, one of the organisers of Ramlila in Sector 20, explained, “From bamboo to twine and from stationery to even junk, the cost of everything has increased. We buy a lot of old newspapers to make effigies. The cost of scrap itself has shot up by Rs 10 per kilo.”
Ravi Sehgal, secretary of the Ramlila committee, Sector 17, said, “We spent Rs 1.50 lakh on effigies last year, this year the same effigies will cost us at least Rs 30,000 more. Similarly the light and sound show, which used to cost Rs 2 lakh until last year, will also be slightly more expensive this time.”
Sehgal lamented that while their collection of funds has fallen by 15% , the expenses have shot up by at least 20% , if not more. “We will have to manage with last year’s savings,” he grumbled.
Meanwhile, the most high-tech Dussehra at the Sector 46 ground every year may also end up disappointing viewers as the Dussehra Committee is yet to get permission to fly a helicopter during the celebrations this year. Jatinder Bhatia, chief patron of Sri Sanatan Dharam Dussehra Committee, Sector 46, said, “Expenditures go up every year but we manage. We are 160 members in the committee and each one of us contributes Rs 2,100 each. Besides, there are voluntary donations as well. But this time, we are having difficulty in getting permission for a helicopter performance, which usually costs between Rs 35,000 and Rs 40,000.”
Bhatia, however, added that regardless of the GST impact, the Sector 46 committee will continue its tradition of having the most high-tech Dussehra in the city. Meanwhile an organizer in Sector 15, Bhushan, grumbled that their committee’s collections for the festival season have fallen from Rs 8 lakh last year to Rs 5 lakh this year.
The expenditure on printing too is headed northward with the invitation cards for Ramlila, Dussehra and the fund collection coupons costlier by Rs 12,000 to Rs 13,000. The dresses of the performers, which were prepared for Rs 50,000 last year, now cost upwards of Rs 70,000.
Paramjit, director of the Azad Dramatic Club, who has been directing the Ramlila acts for the last 17 years in Chandigarh, rued that the effigies, which were ready in Rs 84,000 last year, cost him Rs 1.20 lakh, excluding the fireworks, this season. The tent for the Ramlila has also become dearer by over Rs 30,000.
Organizers say the expenditure on this festival generally crosses Rs 10 lakh every year.

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