As the indefinite strike by jewellers entered its 27th day on Monday, craftsmen in Gujarat are being given ration kits to meet their survival needs.
“In the first phase, we will distribute kits containing rice, pulses and edible oil to about 500 craftsmen. In Ahmedabad, the kits have already been distributed to 80 craftsmen today,” said Jigar Soni, secretary, Ahmedabad Jewellers Association.
The kits contain a month’s supply of food items, and have been put together keeping in mind the cultural differences present within the jeweller diaspora operating in Gujarat. “While Bengali craftsmen have been given masoor dal, local craftsmen have got tur dal,” Soni added.
Jewellers across the nation have been agitating against the 1% excise duty on non-silver jewellery proposed in the Union Budget 2016. “Nearly 200 jewellers participated in a silent protest against the excise duty on Sunday. Despite the government assuring us of no harassment by excise officers and no interference, only 100% rollback of the duty is acceptable to us,” said Zaveribhai Zaveri, chairman of Gujarat Jewellers Association.
A car rally will be held on the streets of Ahmedabad on Tuesday, which will see participation from all members of the jewellery industry, including traders, retailers, wholesalers as well as workers. Jewellers in Gujarat have seen losses amounting to over Rs 7,000 crore since the beginning of the agitation.
On Sunday, Union finance minister Arun Jaitley reiterated his stand that the government was open to suggestions regarding simplification of the procedure of paying the duty, but remained firm that luxury items like jewellery must be taxed.
Gujarat jewellers had earlier suggested imposing a transaction tax in lieu of the excise duty, claiming that the tax would allow government to earn its revenue and traders would also be able to maintain accurate records of transactions.
Jewellers are dead set against the excise duty as they claim the industry is composed mainly of workers who are usually illiterate, and will be unable to maintain records during the manufacturing process.