Friday, April 6, 2012

Jeweller's strike: 10 things you need to know

New Delhi:  As the strike by jewellers across the country enters its 21st day today, a delegation of their representatives will meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi this morning. They are protesting against a steep hike in import duty on gold, and an excise duty hike on unbranded jewellery announced in the Union Budget last month.  The strike has resulted in a revenue loss of Rs. 20,000 crore already, say jewelers. They say they will continue to be on strike till the duty hikes are rolled back.

Here are 10 facts on what is robbing gold of its glitter in India these days:
1) Jewellers across the country have joined the strike, now 21 days old. In sheer numbers, that is 3.5 million people directly employed by the industry.

2) Today a delegation will also meet Pranab Mukherjee. RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav has championed their cause; he met Mr Mukherjee and said the minister had promised "positive" action soon.

3) Last month, Mr. Mukherjee said he would consider their demand to roll back the excise duty, but made it clear that he would not consider reducing the import duty on gold and platinum.

4) The jewellers insist they want a complete rollback; they have called for big rallies - on April 7 in Mumbai and on April 11 at the Ram Lila Maidan in New Delhi.

5) In Kolkata, jewellers have threatened to go on a hunger strike on Saturday, April 7, in protest against the duty hikes.

6) Gold prices, which have been climbing for years, plunged on Wednesday to $1,614 per ounce (Rs. 81,603 an ounce, at current rates: 1 ounce = 28.34 grams), their lowest level in three months, but recovered on Thursday to $1622.30 an ounce (Rs82023 an ounce). The price of gold has declined 15 per cent since September, when it hit a peak of $1,907. It had more than doubled since the financial crisis three years earlier.

7) No change in the proposed duty structure is possible until the Finance Bill is tabled in Parliament; that is likely to happen on May 7.

8) For those who came in late, the Union Budget proposed that import duty on gold be doubled to 4% and also imposed a 0.3% excise duty on unbranded jewellery, which forms the bulk of purchase in India. The move was aimed at reducing imports, thus trimming the current account deficit.

9) The jewellers claim that the agitation has caused the industry a revenue loss of about Rs. 20,000 crore; and that the government has had direct revenue loss of Rs. 700 crore from Customs Duty.

10) The Budget proposals would have a severe impact on the Rs. 10.11 lakh crore a year jewellery industry in the country. Experts say they could cut India's gold imports by a third to 655 tonnes, and push it to second place as the largest importer of the yellow metal, after China.

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