If not government, jewellers’ strike is getting support from the opposition parties, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal being the most active and vocal in support of the jewellers. Recently, even Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray had threatened to hit the streets for the cause of jewellers who are on strike against a budgetary proposal to levy one per cent excise duty on non-silver jewellery and wondered why the Centre cannot hold talks with them though it can do so with Pakistan.
Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal has been quite vocal in his support to the jewellers. Sometime ago he tweeted:
Jewellers strike: "Jewellers associations met me today. New excise duty will mean inspector raj n corruption. Stiff opposition across India, yet centre adamant(sic),"
Referring to Kejriwal’s comment against the levy of excise duty on jewellery, FM Arun Jaitley said that Delhi itself levies value added tax (VAT) on jewellery.
“I have read Delhi chief minister’s comments on it that luxury goods like gold should not be taxed. I will welcome it if Delhi first abolishes VAT on gold. A Union territory which taxes skimmed milk, which taxes every alternate food product, which taxes even sweets,” he said while addressing industry at the annual session of lobby group Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).
But in all this, no one is thinking about the loss of livelihood to a number of artisans who work as daily waged labourers with a number of jewellers. The ongoing strike may not be in the interest of the small time jewellers and artisans who have no other source of livelihood. Its 35th day since the jewellers started their protest on 2nd March 2016 against the proposed 1 per cent excise duty on jewellery. Both the parties are still at loggerheads and there seems to be no sign of truce.
Indian Jeweller (IJ) Magazine conducted an online poll to know views of the industry. The poll results (above image) clearly show that 75 per cent are not in favor of Excise. Among 75 per cent, there are 56 per cent people who are looking for complete rollback and 19 per cent are that wants it to defer till GST. There are 19 per cent of people who think that the proposed duty will help in regularizing the industry and only 6 per cent are okay with excise if it facilitates business.
The poll results show divided thoughts and point of views amidst the industry as only 56 per cent are in favour of complete rollback while the rest of the poll participants are ready for alternate solutions like deferring excise duty till GST. A part of the poll participants are even ready to compromise and accept the duty as they think it can regularize this unorganised sector. May be lot of jewellers are losing patience and ready to accept excise circular issued on 21st March and start the work. But is anyone listening?
Looking at the amount of loss in revenue that the jewellers stand to lose on the eve of Gudi Padwa (Maharashtrian New Year)/Ugadi, followed by Akshay Tritiya, the jewellers need to look at the situation carefully and get ready for a discussion with the government.
In any kind of struggle be it on a small scale or large scale, the most affected are the ones who do not have other source of livelihood. Here, think of the artisans/karigars that are daily waged labourers and have either been forced to return to their natives or opt of other measly source of livelihoods.
Gradually, the strike has started affecting the other related industries like logistics, diamond, insurance etc as well.
Is strike the ultimate answer to end all the worries of jewellers? Could there not be any possibility of finding a golden median?