Mumbai: Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi today alleged that Budget proposal to impose 1 per cent excise duty on non-silver jewellery, is an “assassination attempt” on small traders and workers, who he claimed were being “crushed” by the Centre.

“This is not excise but an assassination attempt on small traders and workers,” he said addressing a jewellers’ rally at Jhaveri Bazar in South Mumbai. Jewelers have been on strike since March 2 demanding a rollback of proposed 1 per cent excise duty on non-silver jewellery.

“It is the government’s job to balance things in the country. The government job is that of judge and not of lawyer,” Rahul said. “The problem before India is that the central government is doing job of the lawyer and not judge,” he said. It is oppression of the weaker sections, Rahul said.

“Big five-six corporates and the government together sought to snatch away farmers land but Congress stood with farmers. The government then backtracked,” he said. Three times the government wanted to enact the Land Bill but farmers and Congress didn’t let that happen,” he said.

The government thinks that it can easily crush you (jewellers) that is why they have attacked you, he said. This is not excise but an assassination attempt on small traders and workers. The reality is your work is sought to be given to a handful of big companies, Rahul said. The seven crore workers engaged in your trade are being crushed, he said.

“Congress will raise this issue in Parliament,” he said. ‘Make in India’ is needed but justice is also needed. One way development won’t benefit anyone, Rahul said.

MPCC president Ashok Chavan and MRCC chief Sanjay Nirupam said Rahul was in Mumbai to show Congress’ solidarity with the agitating jewellers.

Former Union minister Milind Deora said the 45-day-old agitation by jewellers is “unprecedented” in the country.

The traders asked me to invite Rahul Gandhi to Mumbai, he said. Jewellers representative I Singhal alleged their leaders Fatesingh Ranka was “threatened” by a minister in the BJP-led government.

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