With migrant workers facing immense hardships due to the coronavirus pandemic, organisers of Durga Puja in a Kolkata neighbourhood have decided to pay tribute not to Goddess Durga but to the women migrant workers who have been struggling to survive the pandemic.Barisha Club Durga Puja committee in Behala, Kolkata has decided to replace the traditional idol of Durga this year with an idol of a migrant worker and mother with a child on her hip.
Not just Durga, the other deities in the pantheon that are part of the Durga Puja panel, including Saraswati and Lakshmi, have also been replaced. The goddesses will be represented by two the migrant worker’s daughters in her wake, one with an owl representing Lakshmi and the other with a duck, Saraswati’s chosen ‘Vahan’ (transport). The four are accompanied by a tubby little kid with an elephant’s head, signifying Ganesha.
The statue depicts the woman heading toward a traditional idol of Durga, the one with ten arms, in search of “relief”. In fact, “Relief” (Tran in Bengali), is the theme of this year Puja celebrations at Barisha Club, which is well known for its themes Durga Puja marquees in Kolkata.
“The goddess is the woman who braved the scorching sun and hunger and penury along with her children. She is looking for food, water and some relief for her children”, artist of the migrant mother’s statue, Rintu Das, said. In September, the government of India said that of the four crore migrant workers in the country, over 25 per cent or 1.05 crore have returned to their respective states due to coronavirus pandemic and ensuing lockdown. Uttar Pradesh topped the list with 32.50 lakh labourers having returned to their homes, followed by Bihar at 15 lakh, Union Minister of State (IC) for Labour and Employment Santosh Kumar Gangwar said in a written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha.
The stress has been even more on women who have not only lost incomes but have also been forced to inside four walls with their families. Many of them have faced an increase in domestic violence and abuse from their partners during the lockdown.