Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014

Diamond merchants add glitter to campaign

Congress candidate from Amreli Virji Thummar. Express Congress candidate from Amreli Virji Thummar. Express
Written by Avinash Nair | Amreli | Posted: April 17, 2014 2:07 am

Diamantaires in Amreli district — who account for Rs 2,000 crore worth of diamonds polished every year in the state — are running a silent political campaign this Lok Sabha elections. The diamond polishing unit owners have been organising group meetings to convince the 60,000 odd strong labour workforce to vote for a political party that will help the sector in the near future.

Members from Amreli District Diamond Association have been spearheading political campaigns among the labour workforce for the last several weeks.

“We are running a silent campaign within the industry. We have already organised about 200 such group meetings wherein we have met and discussed with the diamond workers about why and whom to vote this election,” says Lalit Thummar, president of the association.

One such group meeting was held on Tuesday that was attended by Thummar. He, however, refused to reveal the political alignment chosen by the association that spearheads about 1,500 diamond polishing units that employ over 60,000 workers in the district.

According to official sources, the reticent political undercurrent flowing through the 1,500-odd diamond polishing units in Amreli seems to be largely in favour of the Congress candidate Virji Thummar. This campaign comes at a time when the BJP candidate and sitting MP from the constituency Naranbhai Kachhadiya is fighting anti-incumbency and factionalism within the local party unit.

“The diamond industry in Amreli is one of the biggest revenue-generating sectors in the district. We process diamonds worth Rs 2,000 crore every year and pay workers salaries that range between Rs 8,000-1,8000 per month. However, our demands for a diamond park or a diamond training institute have not been met. In the last ten years, over 1,000 diamond polishing units have closed down in the district and we have been left to fend for ourselves,” points out an owner of a diamond polishing unit, who did not wish to be named.

The diamond units in Amreli are spread over a number of places, including Lathi, Rajula, Babra, Amreli town, Savarkundla, Liliya, Dhari, Bagasra and Talala.

“Most workers employed with us are uneducated and so we are running these political campaigns to help them choose the right candidate,” the owner says, adding that even if 60-70 per cent of the workforce votes for one party, the efforts of the diamantaires may bear fruit.

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