Excise Stays! Jewellers’ strike called off

The 18-day nation-wide jewellers’ strike has been called off with government promising no harassment to the jewellers. However, not all of the jewellers’ community is happy with the decision as ‘Excise Duty’ stays, the main motive behind the jew

Post By : IJ News Service On 28 March 2016 5:56 PM

Jewellers across India have finally called off strike. Jewellers were on indefinite strike since 2nd March 2016 as a protest against proposed 1 per cent excise duty on jewellery. However, the proposed duty is expected to give rise to ‘inspector raj’ and unethical practices. The jewellers had made it clear to the government that they were not against the duty but the ‘inspector raj’ and ‘excise department’. However, the strike saga has come to an important junction after 18-days of continuous struggle, but with no outcome. Jewellers are disappointed and are feeling betrayed again, once by the NDA government and now by the jewellery associations, whose diktats they have been following blindly for the last few days. Considering these organisations being the voice of entire gems and jewellery industry, the jewellers’ community felt that their future was in safe hands. But no more, these organisations have fallen prey to the promises of top officials of BJP, says a prominent jeweller of Pune expressing his disappointment. Just few hours of meeting, few promises of no harassment and the jewellery associations have easily given in to the sugar-coated promises of the BJP officials. The decision to call off strike has raised a question over the very motive of strike and proved it to be a lost battle that the jewellery industry had been fighting for the last 18 days. After 18 days of closure, thousands of crores of business loss for nothing substantial. The only thing that stays on paper is the ‘Excise Duty’ rest all negotiations are talks which may or may not happen.

This time during the strike, it was always a question of ‘Who would call it a truce – government or jewellers?’ and the associations have easily relented to the government’s promises. What could be the reasons for this? Is it the weak and fragmented leadership (GJF/IBJA/GJEPC and all the other regional associations working in different directions.)? Jewellery industry is in the dire need of one central association to take care of the entire gems and jewellery industry. Though it was a nation-wide strike, branded stores were still open, while some of the jewellers operating from back doors. Slowly, unrest within the jewellers’ community was growing and many southern and eastern markets started opening their stores. Did the associations across India fail to come on one page, regarding strike? There are many such questions that the jewellers are trying to find answers to. At the time of writing this report, jewellers from North India had decided to continue with the strike. Do we see jeweller’s unity falling apart? History repeats itself
2007 and 2012 too, the Centre had introduced excise duty in the gems and jewellery sector, only to roll back the plan Narendra Modi’s tweet when he was Gujarat CM (2012) later after intensified industry wide protest. In 2012, the strike went on for 21 days. Then in 2012, traders were estimated to have lost Rs. 20,000 crore due to the strike, while the government lost nearly Rs. 1,200 crore in revenues on account of import duty, says reports. In 2012, Narendra Modi, then CM of Gujarat, had supported the jeweller community. Jewellery Industry Duty Tales
• Excise is applicable to most of the industries. Agreed!
• But it can’t be applicable in an unorganised industry like gems and jewellery. Why? Because, these are small artisans, who do not have own manufacturing set up and mostly outsource their work.
• As per guidelines, now at every step, the manufacturers will have to maintain accounts.
• Maintaining accounts is highly impossible at every step as many of the artisans are illiterate or cannot read and write English.
• Excise officers will be visiting the manufacturers/jewellers to cross verify the accounts of jewellers for whom they are making the jewellery whose turnover is more than Rs. 12 crore and to check whether their turnover is above the limit of Rs. 6 crore.
• If found guilty, the manufacturer/jeweller would be sentenced to jail, thus putting an end to livelihood of many karigars as well as other dependent manufacturers.

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