As gold prices go up, goldsmiths take a hit

retail
By retail September 17, 2019 15:01

As gold prices go up, goldsmiths take a hit

Mumbai’s Zaveri Bazaar, once known as a hub of goldsmiths in India, now has vacant shops and rooms. Increased import duty and soaring gold prices have rendered thousands of gold artisans jobless, forcing them to return to their native villages in West Bengal.

Describing the situation, Rakesh Mishra, estate agent at Zaveri Bazaar, said that two to three shops lay vacant in each building in the once sort-after market. Mishra, 45, is a registered estate agent based in Zaveri Bazaar for last 18 years. He was approached by a businessman for commercial premises and workers for residence.

When asked how the slowdown in the gold industry has affected his business, Mishra lamented, “I wouldn’t meet you for an interview unless you book an appointment two days in advance. My office used to be filled with clients. We used to ask customers to give their requirements in advance as it took a month to find a property in Zaveri Bazaar. In the current situation, properties are available at a 15-20 percent discount and still, there are no clients. No new businesses are starting and people are winding up their current ones.”

A similar situation prevails in the entire chain of businesses in the jewellery industry. Worst affected by this economic slowdown are the goldsmiths who are on the lowest rung of this chain.

According to estimates given by Azad Hind Goldsmiths Welfare Association, there were up to two lakh artisans in Zaveri Bazaar and half of them have been sent home as their bosses can’t afford their salaries.

Kumar Jain, Shree Mumbai Jewellers Association, said the situation is worse for goldsmiths now. He said goldsmiths may also “start committing suicides” like the farmers of Maharashtra.

“There is a low demand for gold due to rising prices. We are not giving any new orders to the goldsmiths who are taking the burden. They worked on a daily basis to earn their living. There are 1.26 crore goldsmiths in India and the jewellery industry contributes to 32 per cent tax revenue of GOI. We are hoping a rollback in import duty and increase PAN requirement from 2 lakh to 5 lakh. Like farmers of Maharashtra, goldsmiths may also start committing suicides,” Kumar Jain said.

As there is a slowdown in demand of gold in spite of wedding and festive season, artisans who made their way up in the ladder after working in the field for decades are losing business. The average rent for 100 square feet of the shop in the market is around Rs 35,000. As they run out of business, they have no other options but to shut shop.

Khokan Aiynal Khan, 48, is into polishing of ornaments that are designed by the artisans. He has cut his staff from 20 to 4 last month. “I still have to send money to the 16 labourers as there is no farm activity in their native West Bengal due to poor rainfall. When I enter my workshop, my staff looks at me with the hope that I have got some business. I hate to tell them that I am faking a smile on my face and that soon I may have to ask them to leave. I pay Rs 25,000 as rent for the shop.”

Prasanjit Dutta, 30, is from Hooghly and working in Mumbai for 15 years. “I used to make Rs 20,000 a month and send home some money. These days, I barely make Rs 4000 and the expense of my family is Rs 5,000. How should I manage? I go without work sometimes for 15 days in a stretch. Going ahead I don’t know if I will have a job tomorrow. With all the goldsmiths struggling and I know only these skills how will I survive? We are not able to buy new clothes for Vishwamkarma Puja this year.”

Vishwakarma is a prominent festival for goldsmiths. Like Ganesh Chaturthi, the immersion of Vishwakarma takes places after days of prayers. This year, there is no charm seen in the artisans to celebrate this festival as they are struggling to survive.

Basudam Gupta, 42, selling Biswakarma idols said, “The festival is a day away and I have barely sold any idols. This is the impact of the economic slowdown faced by the goldsmiths. We are hoping that some idols will be sold in the coming days.”

As there is a rise in losing jobs, the labourers are worried about the future. Ikramul Haque, president of Azad Hind Goldsmith Welfare Association have urged the government to look into the issue.

“Trouble for us started from demonetisation, then GST and increase in import duty now. We are losing our incomes. There have been reports of suicide of goldsmiths from Zaveri Bazaar. We request the government to look into this issue.”

Courtesy: IndiaToday

retail
By retail September 17, 2019 15:01
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