Mumbai: About two-third of skilled workforce in jewellery sector has left for their hometown or switched to alternative means of livelihood due to the current strike over excise duty levy. These workers belong to West Bengal and Bihar. They have left for their hometown in large number. According to trade sources, workers have left from all across India for their hometown.
Over 200,000 skilled and unskilled workers are employed largely on daily wage basis in the popular Zaveri Bazaar market here alone. Normally, they get salary on weekly basis for the number of days worked and additional sum for overtime work they do. But, because of the ongoing strike, they have been facing survival problems as their weekly salary has stopped.
Abrupt departure from the industry in bad taste would impact jewellery sector badly in the long term.
“In usual course, they used to send money to their hometown after receiving salary which has stopped because of the ongoing strike. Now, workers do not see any ray of ending the strike in sight. Hence, around two-third of workers have left for their hometown and others are on the verge of doing so,” said Kumar Jain, Director, Umedmal Tilokchand Zaveri, a Zaveri Bazaar based jewellery retailer.
Thus, the jewellery sector is suffering from both sides. In one hand, their income has come to standstill because of shutting down their businesses for 40 days in protest of 1% excise duty levy, they fear acute shortage of labour once strike is called off.
Neither the striking jewellers nor the government is inclined to show leniency over their stand-off. Despite meeting with all top brasses of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders including the party president Amit Shah, the finance minister Arun Jaitley and road transport minister Nitin Gadkari to name a few, the government has hinted no possibility of the excise duty rollback as demanded by the striking jewellers.
Interestingly, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has turned down jewellers’ request to meet with the prime minister Narendra Modi over excise duty.
Director of All India Gems and Jewellery Trade Federation (GJF), Ashok Minawala, argued that the levy of excise duty would bring back “inspector raj” with the immense power vested with the inspector under the Central Excise Act, the government terms the levy as a step to curb “black money” in the system.