Anand Mahiti, hailing from a remote village in West Bengal, moved to Mumbai five years ago in search of a job. When he landed in Mumbai, he was sure of employment as a couple of young boys from his village had been hired as goldsmiths in the city.
All he sought in the initial years was decent pay, a roof on the head and food. He got all three when he was hired as a trainee at one of the workshops at Zaveri Bazaar. It’s not an easy job.
Mahiti spends about 12 hours of the day, crafting gold jewellery on a small wooden table. He is among the 12-13 goldsmiths who operate out of a matchbox-like room in a narrow byline at Zaveri Bazaar.
There are multiple sweatshops in the area employing thousands of young karigars hailing from villages close to Howrah. Once an employment centre, the lure of Zaveri Bazaar is now fading for these youth.
Owing to the demand slowdown and massive fall in monthly payments, thousands of karigars have gone back to their villages. “I used to earn about Rs 16,000 a month earlier, now I make only about Rs 8,000 – 10,000 a month because wages are a product of how much work I do,” shares Mahiti.
Jewellers at Zaveri Bazaar say that business has declined by almost 40-50 percent over the last two years. This slump in sales has impacted overall growth for the sector as well as jobs.
With a stable government in power, there is hope that the focus on both growth and jobs will help beat the slowdown. The biggest demand from the sector this time around is to introduce measures to bring back consumption.
The domestic industry has demanded a cut in import duty on gold to 4 percent from the current 10 percent. The industry is also seeking a reduction in duty on importing diamonds in the upcoming budget. If this is implemented, it would help grow the legal gold market.
"Gold demand in 2013 was 958 tonne and it dropped to 670 -770 tonne in the period 2016-18. The industry's employment and export potential are well documented. It will slip into sluggishness if policy reforms are not implemented. It's time to cut duty and bring the market mainstream," tweeted Somasundaram PR, managing director, World Gold Council India.Apart from that, the industry is seeking clarity on steps being taken to make gold an asset class. Another key demand from the sector are steps to increase the export of handmade jewellery to western countries. Establishment of innovation centres for jewellery could also be positive if announced in the budget.