Sambhu Nath, a daily wager, has lost almost his half month’s earning with his employer jeweller going on a strike, against the hike in import duty, along with 300 other shop owners in Rajkot — one of the largest hubs of handmade wedding and ethnic jewellery makers.
Nath, who hails from West Bengal, earns Rs10,000 to Rs 12,000 a month. Half of which he sends back home. “This time there is hardly any money to send home. My mother, wife and children will wait for money. I don’t know what to tell them,” said Nath.
In the standoff between the central government and jewellers, it’s the artisans who have been worst hit. Across India, gold market has remained closed for the last 10 days and jewellers are now planning to go on an indefinite strike.
Nath’s plight is shared by nearly 60,000 artisans in Rajkot that designs 50 per cent of wedding jewellery in India. They work on daily basis in multiple shifts and design over 2,000 kg gold jewellery per day.
Their loss may seem small compared to the dent in the turnover that the market has seen due to the strike, but it has left several thousand families in the lurch.
“Never in the past we saw a strike continuing for so long. If this will continue for a couple of more days, we will have to find some other source of income,” said Bhuna Jenu, another worker.
Rajkot Gold Jewellery Manufactures Association president Bhaya Saholia admitted that artisans were suffering but said the industry “itself is incurring losses running into several hundreds crores”. “Artisans are also at the receiving end. But the two per cent hike is not justified and traders will fight till the end,” he said.
The cramped lanes and bylanes of Soni Bazar in Rajkot, where work begins in small units at 8 am and goes till 12 in the midnight, nowadays wear a deserted look.
Last season, the local market consumed 900 tonnes of gold in making jewellery, maintaining its position as one of the top designing and manufacturing hubs in the country.