Gujarat: Surat's Diamond Artisans Face Despair As Suicides Rise Amid Industry Crisis

Gujarat: Surat's Diamond Artisans Face Despair As Suicides Rise Amid Industry Crisis

The situation has become so dire that some have even turned to petty crimes to survive.

Melvyn ThomasUpdated: Wednesday, March 06, 2024, 08:14 PM IST
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The glittering facade of the diamond industry in Surat, the world's largest diamond cutting and polishing center, has been tarnished by a wave of despair. According to the Diamond Workers Union Gujarat (DWUG), a staggering 44 diamond artisans have committed suicide in the last ten months (April 19, 2023 - March 1, 2024) due to unemployment triggered by a prolonged recession.

The DWUG blames a confluence of factors for the industry's woes. The lingering impact of the COVID-19 lockdown, coupled with the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war and the associated sanctions on Russian diamonds by G-7 countries has cast a long shadow on the sector. The war in Israel and the global economic downturn have further exacerbated the crisis.

'No concrete solutions yet'

Diamond companies and smaller units have resorted to production cuts, directly impacting the livelihoods of artisans and driving many to the brink of financial ruin. The situation has become so dire that some have even turned to petty crimes to survive.

"We brought the distress and suffering of diamond artisans to the Gujarat Chief Minister's attention," said Bhavesh Tank, vice-president of DWUG. "Despite following his instructions and submitting two representations to the Chief Secretary and the Minister of Labor and Employment, we haven't received any concrete solutions to address the problems faced by the artisans."

Frustration is mounting within the diamond industry, with all organizations and industrialists urging the government to intervene. They are demanding a comprehensive five-point plan from the government, including:

- Declaring an economic package to support the diamond industry.

- Announcing the "Ratnadeep Yojana" - a skill development scheme for diamond artisans.

- Constituting a "Ratnakalakar Welfare Board" to safeguard the well-being of artisans.

- Providing financial assistance to the families of deceased diamond artisans.

- Abolishing the professional tax levied on diamond workers.

'Anger and frustration reaching boiling point'

The DWUG highlights the stark contrast between the government's efforts to attract investments and its neglect of the diamond industry, which contributes significantly to the state's foreign exchange earnings. Tank warns that inaction could lead to a mass exodus of artisans from the industry, further jeopardising its future.

"The government seems to perceive diamond artisans as a vulnerable group, but their anger and frustration are reaching a boiling point," Tank said. "We urge them to address this crisis before it spills onto the streets and leads to unrest."

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