Jewellers back in business, but protests continue

Showrooms in Chennai stood in solidarity. PC: Nilesh Christopher


Protests against the proposed increase in excise duty by 1 percent on non-silver jewellery have been called off by several stores in the city and other parts of Tamil Nadu after delay in negotiations burden the jewellers.

Jewellers and artisans went on an indefinite strike from March 2 in objection to the Union Budget 2016-17 that increased the excise duty and made PAN card mandatory for purchase above 2 lakh by a customer. This 1 percent increase is likely to lead to loss of jobs by small scale traders and artisans.

Strike was called off on March 17, after the All India Gem and Jewellery Trade Federation among other major trade associations met the Central Board of Excise and Customs in Mumbai to discuss the issue. Though proceedings of the same are yet to be communicated to traders and analysts but jewellers are optimistic.

“Our management told us that the proposed change in excise duty will be rolled back next month,” said S. Sohan Babu, Manager of the Saravana Store in T. Nagar. Their store was shut on March 3,5,6 and 9 that led to a loss up to 16 Crore in sales.

PC: Nilesh Christopher


Saravana Store opened their showrooms even after being suggested otherwise by the Madras Jewellers and Diamond Merchant Association that overlooks the gold trade by 1200 jewellers in the State. “We were incurring huge losses and so could not afford to remain shut any longer,” added Mr. Babu.

P. Narayanan, General Manager at the Prince Jewellers showroom in T.Nagar said they suffered a blow in business by 1-2 Crore by shutting off for four days and this has deterred their morale, “We do not plan to close our showroom in future for the protest.”

Procurement of PAN card details from the customer on purchase worth of 2 lakh or above has also drawn flak with jewellers losing out on customers who prefer going to small scale traders for a hassle free shopping experience.

Nitish Sharma, Manager of Shree Gold Jewellers at the T.Nagar showroom said,” We have lost out on customers in the past, but still we abide by it.”

Officials of the Madras Jewellers and Diamond Merchant’s Association confirm that the strike was levying heavy losses on traders and thus stores have opened but the opposition will continue, ” The strike has been called off yes, but our management is still in talks with the Central Board of Excise and Customs.”

However, Jewellers in Gujarat are not ready to give up the agitation, ” All stores in Gujarat are on an indefinite strike until the increase in excise duty is rolled back, we are expectant of a positive outcome from the meeting on March 17,” said officials of the Gem and Jewellery Trade Council.

Officials of the All India Gem and Jewellery Trade Federation remained unavailable for comments on the outcome from the meeting in Mumbai on March 17.  



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