Kr. Balwant Singh Bhau
With strike entering 36th day, Gold market of Jammu has so far suffered losses above Rs. 1 lakh crore.
The strike is likely to continue for another 5 days. Jewellers, bullion traders and artisans in Jammu are on indefinite strike since March 2. They have been demanding rollback of 1 percent excise duty on non-silver jewellery. All Jewellery shops in Jammu and outside wore a deserted look. Seen as the hub of gold and diamond jewellery, the striking traders are not willing to give in till the government announces a rollback.
In 2012, the union government had imposed a one per cent excise duty which it was forced to rollback after jewelers protested. This time, the protest is also to show their unhappiness against showing of pan cards on every purchase over Rs 2 lakh. And in this tussle between the government and the Jewellers, the commoners are suffering.
Shutters remained down and the jewellers were seen on the roads, closing down their establishments against the Government’s decision of imposing one percent excise duty on gold ornaments. President Sarafa Association Jammu Parjan Kumar Jain on being asked said that total loss till now is nearly about Rs. 1 lakh crore. “I hope that issue would be redressed in the next few days,” added Jain.
President, Swarnkar Sangh Sarafa Association Kulbushan Anand said “We want the government to rollback the imposition of the excise duty on jewellers. It is not possible to implement it practically.” He further added that the imposition of excise duty includes various document allied tasks like keeping and maintaining records which is difficult for the old jewellers who are mostly illiterate.
He said already the jewellery business is suffering due to high gold prices and now, by this step, it will be completely destroyed. Chandan Sethi, a jeweler, said that due to this bandh, not only jewellers are suffering; it affects the general masses too. He added that it does not harm jewelers that much. “Mostly those who suffer are employees working in shops. Government must take the immediate step to sort out the deadlock,” said Sethi.
He said that government is forcibly imposing excise duty on the jewelers. “I as an individual think that the government must see through in the issue as no one is benefited from this bandh and everyone is suffering. It affects the every working class right from the artisans to the jewelers,” added Sethi. Vijay Kumar Sharma, General Secretary of the Swarnkar Sangh stated that some of our leaders who went for negotiations with the government were easily lured by the government but when they came back, they could not open the shops and hence, they had to face wrath.
Raj Kumar Babbar, Provincial head of the association stated that the Jewelers give gold to small shopkeepers (Swarankar), who make ornaments of gold. “It is a traditional practice adopted since centuries. Normally, such small shopkeepers have only three to 10 workers for doing the designing/art work. They operate the business without official staff. The profession is a family; it is not about an individual. The whole family, community is affected by this move,” added Babbar.
He said the gold trading community was not much against the amount of tax that was being levied, but they were protesting against the way it was being levied i.e. through the Excise Department. “Also, they are against the fulfillment procedure for excise duty which includes the records to be maintained, forms to be filled-in, operating procedures and other relevant aspects which are not possible in practical for these small shopkeepers.