ibnlive » India

Jul 08, 2008 at 04:32am IST

More shine for the work: Guj diamond workers

Surat: A day after a protesting diamond worker was shot dead in Bhavanagar, diamond workers across Gujarat went on a strike on Monday.

For the past 15 years, 38-year-old Suresh Zalawadia, has been earning his living polishing diamonds in Surat. Now he is contemplating heading back to his native village in Amreli district.

15 years ago, he earned Rs 5000 a month. Today, with the cost of living skyrocketing his monthly wage is still a mere Rs 7000.

“Earlier, I used to save Rs 3000 a month. Today, I need to borrow money to make ends meet. I've been thinking of going back to my village and taking up farming." Zalawadia says.

Over 14 lakh diamond workers across Gujarat share Zalawadia’s plight. Now a growing desperation is driving them to violence.

The past ten days have seen violent protests in different cities of Gujarat with the diamond workers demanding higher wages. On Sunday, a protesting worker was shot and killed by a private security guard at a diamond unit in Bhavnagar.

And even though the Surat Diamond Association admits workers are underpaid, they say there are constraints.

"The demand of the labourers is genuine. The problem is with units that cut and polish small diamonds. In their case, labour costs account for 70 per cent of production cost,” Joint Secretary, Surat Diamond Association, Rohit Mehta explains.

  • About 14 lakh diamond workers in Gujarat earn an average salary of about Rs 6000 a month
  • There are about 12,000 units in Gujarat, of them 10,000 are in Surat alone
  • The industry notches up a turnover of Rs 80,000 crore
  • Of this, diamonds worth Rs 70,000 crore are exported and Rs.10,000 crore are used domestically
  • Gujarat accounts for nine out of ten of all the diamonds polished in the world. So, what the workers are asking for is a fairer share of the sparkle.

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