Surat: Around 10,000 workers engaged in diamond industry of Surat have lost their jobs, while those still working face salary cut owing to the slump in production in the last few months.
The massive retrenchment of job in Surat’s diamond industry came to the fore when a 31-year-old worker Vipul Jinjala consumed poison and ended his life on January 19. He is survived by his wife and two children.
His younger brother Paresh told the media that for the last few months his older brother was facing a financial crunch, as along with the rising inflation, salaries were shrinking and it had become difficult for his brother to make the two ends meet and this might have led to his suicide.
Vipul is not the lone diamond workers living in penury. Thousands of workers are struggling to meet their family needs, finding it difficult to regularly pay EMIs of housing or vehicle loans, children’s school fees and meeting the daily household expenses, said Ramesh Jilariya, president of the Surat Diamond Workers Union (SDWU).
According to the union’s estimate, around 10,000 diamond workers have been rendered jobless because of production cuts and small units closing down. The union is demanding that the state should strictly implement labour laws in the diamond sector, which should be covered under the Factory Act, where the labour gets ESCI, provident fund, fixed working hours and other social and health security benefits that other labourers get.
Industries expert admit that the diamond production has gone down by 20 to 21% because during the peak of the Christmas season imports had declined by 18% from America and other countries. According to data, in December 2022 the country’s finished diamond exports stood at $ 2356.70 million, which is a 18.90% decline from December 2021’s $ 2905 million exports.
“Apart from laying off thousands, the diamond polishing units have reduced working hours from 12-8 hours in a day and giving two day’s weekly off instead of one,” said a trade professional in Surat. The cut in working hours and increased weekly offs, workers cut and polish less diamonds. Since their salaries are linked to pieces and performance, these steps are proving disastrous for the workers, he explained.
President of Surat Diamond Association Nanubhai Vekariya, however, dismisses the slowdown in diamonds sector, claiming that not a single diamond unit has closed down in the last two to three months. On the contrary he claimed that an unnecessary hue and cry is being made over the recession, whereas industry is working at 100% capacity and around seven lakh workers are still engaged in 3000 units in Surat.