Surat (Gujarat), June 17 : The current recession has had its impact on world markets and raw diamonds have crippled the once shimmering diamond cutting industry of Surat in Gujarat.
The situation is turning precarious with the existing diamond cutting units struggling to survive.
Thousands of workers engaged in the cutting and polishing of diamonds in Surat are compelled to explore other means to arrange for their daily bread.
Out of the total export of rupees 80, 000 crores (800 billion rupees) from India, the cut and polished diamonds from Surat account for rupees 45,000 crores (450 billion rupees).
The diamond industry in Surat is related to the employment of over 700,000 people from across the country. Besides, another 25,00,000 people are associated to the diamond trade, directly or indirectly.
"The bigger units are getting bigger and the smaller ones are getting smaller. Then there is the problem of labour. The workers as of now are 30 per cent less than earlier times. The main reason being is the rise in prices of goods," said Naresh Borad, owner of a small scale diamond cutting and polishing unit.
Over 4,000 big and small factories in Surat are today struggling to counter adverse market trends, experienced around the globe.
"I have been working in this area for last 28 years. Earlier, I used to earn around Rs. 7,000 to 8000 but now I work for around Rs. 5,000-5,500. Consequently, there is less money to run the house and teach children. Agriculture is better. There has been immense impact. The smaller craftsmen are not able to work anymore. All of them are going to the villages, as the prices are rising," said Bharatbhai, a diamond worker.
"The business is changing. Some people are joining the textile industry, some embroidery and the others are going back to agriculture," he said.
Besides the rising cost of living, the recent slump in the U.S economy is also stated to be one of the major reasons for the setback suffered by the industry. America is considered as a major market for diamond industry, as it imports 38 to 40 billion U.S dollars worth diamonds from India.
Indian diamond market imports rough material from South Africa, Australia, Israel, Belgium, and Canada.
With the recent recession in American economy, import of polished stones from India slid down by nine per cent that was estimated to be worth around 828.63 million U.S dollars.
"The raw material has become expensive. So the onus is on the labour. Their wages have been reduced slowly. In the last two years 150,000 men have left the industry. There is competition here like any other business, but the diamond industry has been declining for the past five years. Last year, it went down due to America's economy. The 82 billion industry of jewellry the world over is bound to get effected," said Jivraj Surani, of J. B Diamonds, a globally certified diamond trader.
The small-scale diamond units and the work force associated with it are struggling hard and are almost on the verge of extinction.
"If we take internationally, India, especially Surat in Gujarat is the hub of diamond manufacture. Eight out of the 10 diamonds are made here. In the last one-and-a-half years 15 per cent of the workers have left the business. They have shifted to other business. These 15 per cent have left because raw materials are not available and the prices are rising. The machinery used by the big factories cannot be used by their smaller counterparts. Hence, they are facing problems and joining other business firms," said C. P Vanani, the President of the Surat Diamond Association. By Ami