Some of the local artisans registered with the Goa Handicrafts Rural and Small Scale Industries Development (GHRSSIDC) continue to use Plaster of Paris (PoP) for preparing Ganesh idols.
The last two year analysis reports of Goa State Pollution Control Board (GSPCB) on 143 clay samples collected from local artisans used in making idols found higher concentration of calcium sulphate in 14 samples which shows that around ten per cent of clay samples and idols checked were found to be made up of Plaster of Paris.
These concentrations of calcium sulphate (CaSO4) have exceeded the limit of 0.6 per cent and 3.068 per cent which is naturally found in clay.
The GSPCB officials said that a decision to set a limit of calcium sulphate so as to differentiate between clay objects and PoP objects has not been taken yet. However, it has been recommended that a cut-off of 5 per cent be maintained as the maximum limit of calcium sulphate (CaSO4).
The inspection was conducted jointly with officials of GHRSSIDC prior to the beginning of the Ganesh festival, to verify the composition of the materials used for making idols by the registered artisans in the state.
A total of 425 local artisans are registered with the GHRSSIDC and these artisans sell around 50,000 handmade clay Ganesh idols annually and also get a subsidy of Rs 100 on each clay idol they sell under a scheme but with a rider that they should not use Plaster of Paris.
Interestingly, a GSPCB official claimed that every year the GSPCB submits the joint inspection report with recommendation to the GHRSSIDC for necessary action but the GHRSSIDC maintained that they have not received any report from GSPCB to take any action against the artisans for using PoP in making idols.
The department has now released a subsidy of Rs 47.50 lakh of the year 2017 to all the traditional
Ganesh idol makers without taking any action against those artisans involved in using PoP in making idols.
In 2016, the GSPCB collected a total of 80 samples of clay used by local artisans for making the idols and around eight clay samples were found positive for calcium sulphate (CaSO4) concentration in range between 15.1 per cent and 67.2 per cent, which was twenty times higher than the naturally found concentration of same chemical in clay.
The eight clay samples with high level of calcium sulphate were collected from Thane (Sattari), Dadachiwadi (Pernem), Netravali (Sanguem), Pirna (Bardez), Kalay (Sanguem), Dhargal (Pernem), Curchorem and Ponda.
Similarly in 2017, out of 63 samples analysed for concentration of calcium sulphate, six samples had higher concentration of calcium sulphate and rest of the samples were in the range between 0.11 per cent and 0.21 per cent. The test results of idol samples of four artisans from Vithalpur, Karapur, Cuncolim and Thane indicates concentrations of 16.95 per cent, 25.5 per cent, 29.4 per cent and 56.62 per cent of calcium sulphate indicating the use of Plaster of Paris.
Interestingly, the calcium sulphate content in two more clay samples collected from Khorlim and Pirna was found to be in a range between 30.7 per cent and 32.4 per cent. The clay was brought from neighbouring states of Karnataka and Maharashtra.
As PoP idols look more attractive compared to the clay ones, they command a high price. Most of the festival organising committees still prefer PoP idols for installation in pandals to attract devotees. As livelihood does matter for artisans, they are not ready to lose their business by making clay idols.
In 2008, the state government had banned the use of PoP in the making of Ganesh idols for Vinayaka Chaturthi. Moreover, the manufacturing, transportation, stocking, selling or displaying of PoP idols is punishable under Section 15 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, and licences granted to sellers can be cancelled.