Having missed out to cash in during the occasion of Gudi Padwa, jewellers across the country have decided to call off the 43-day long strike ahead of the wedding season and Akshaya Tritiya festival on 9 May.
Gudi padwa was celebrated on 8 April and is considered to be the start of the Maharashtrian New Year. Hindus worship Lord Ganesha and Goddess Lakshmi on Akshaya Tritiya and buying gold on the occasion is considered auspicious.
“Due to closure of shops, people were not able to purchase gold on the shubh muhurat (auspicious occasion). As Akshay Tritiya is due next month, we expect people to flock in large numbers and jewellery sales are likely to go up by 15-20 per cent compared with last year,” said Bacchraj Bamalwa, director, All India Gems and Jewellery Trade Federation (GJF), and owner of Kolkata-based jewellery store Nemichand Bamalwa and Sons.
India and China were the leaders in terms of demand for gold in 2015 despite the global economic uncertainty. India’s jewellery demand for 2015 was 654.3 tonnes, up 5 per cent compared with around 620 tonnes in 2014, according to World Gold council data.
According to Mohit Kamboj, president of Indian Bullion Jewellers Association (IBJ), jewellers across the country lost business of Rs50,000-60,000 crore during the strike.
Jewellers from across the country started an indefinite strike on 1 March following the government’s decision, announced in the Union budget, to impose 1 per cent excise duty on non-silver jewellery.
“All associations, including GJF, IBJ and Gems Jewellery Export Promotion Council, have called off the strike,” said Sreedhar G.V., chairman of GJF. He added that jewellers are hopeful that the process will be simplified.
Kamboj also confirmed that all 6,000 members of IBJ in Maharashtra have called off the strike and shops opened on Wednesday. IBJ called off the strike on 19 March, but it was individual jewellers who persisted and did not resume business.
Experts are of the opinion that jewellers could not have forgone the business for long.
“Jewellers are losing business and they do not see any hope of getting the excise duty withdrawn. They have no option other than to open shops,” said Pramod Rai, former member of Central Board of Excise and Customs.
Meanwhile, the National Democratic Alliance government constituted a sub-committee on 21 March, headed by former economic adviser Ashok Lahiri, to look into the issue and submit a report within 60 days.
“It has been made clear that till the recommendations of the sub-committee are not finalized, no arrest or criminal prosecution of any jeweller will be done, neither search or seizure of stocks by any central excise official will be effected,” said a government notification issued on 21 March.