A diamond dazzles and more often than not, it is also indicative of the standard of living of the person who wears it. Sadly, it in no way reflects the ups and downs the artisans, cutting and polishing the diamonds, go through.
This Diwali is sans dazzle for thousands of diamond workers in Surat who process nearly 95 per cent of the world’s diamonds.
Multiple factors like recession, Russia-Ukraine war, COVID aftermath in China, overproduction and perhaps the gradual increase in demand for green diamonds have hit the industry hard. Though those at the helm of affairs paint a rosy picture, especially ahead of the opening of the Surat Diamond Bourse on December 17, the fact remains that hundreds of small units have closed down as they could not withstand the problem any longer.
Built at a cost of Rs 3,200 crore, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate his pet project, which is the largest office building in the world, surpassing the Pentagon of the USA. However, the mood is sombre in families whose bread earners from the diamond industry have given away lives.
If Bhavesh Tank, vice president of Diamond Workers Union Gujarat is to be believed, at least 30 diamond workers have committed suicides in the last five months. Hundreds of units have closed down, he said.
Tales of units closing, diamond workers getting reduced salaries and reduced bonuses or no bonuses are common. Former president of Surat Diamond Association and a key figure in the SBD, Dinesh Navadiya, said that there are nearly nine lakh people belonging to the diamond industry staying in Katargam and Varaccha. He agreed that one to two per cent of the suicide cases could be due to the problems faced in the diamond industry. However, in rest of the cases, the reasons for suicides will be different if one goes to the roots of the various problems faced by the families.
The DWUG for long has been demanding a package for the diamond workers. Their demand was echoed by the opposition Congress in a big way. Congress leader Amit Chavda had also written a letter to Gujarat chief minister Bhupendra Patel. Wondering as to why problems faced by the diamond workers are not addressed when problems of state transport workers or teachers are solved, Tank questioned how long will it take for the state government to come out with a policy for diamond workers.
Navadiya said that the supply of roughs from Russia has been affected due to the war. Russia supplies 29 per cent of the diamond roughs consumed by Surat.
The recession in America and the COVID aftermath in China have been equally responsible for the majority of the consumption of India’s diamonds in these two countries. Tank alleged that the overproduction is due to making diamond workers work for longer hours and not paying enough.
He said the DWUG with the support of Gems and Jewellery National Relief Foundation deposited Rs 5,000 in the accounts of 150 diamond workers towards the education of their children.
Like Saurashtra, South Gujarat also has remained politically important and currently key functionaries of the ruling BJP and the government come from South Gujarat.
Observers often wonder why the diamond workers have to suffer every time when people of the likes of Gujarat BJP president C.R. Paatil come from South Gujarat. In fact, deputy railway minister Darshna Jardosh and minister of state for home in Gujarat Harsh Sanghvi belong to Surat.