With at least six jewellers succumbing to Covid-19 and more than a dozen jewellers and workers testing positive for the disease over the past two days, Rajkot Gold Dealers Association (RGDA) has appealed to its members to keep their units shut for a week from Monday.
“There is panic among jewellers, workers and salesmen after six jewellers died of Covid-19. Also, at least a dozen jewellers and workers have contracted the virus in the past two days. At a teleconference held on Saturday, the executive committee of the RGDA unanimously decided to appeal to our members to keep their units shut for a week,” RGDA president, Bhayabhai Saholiya, told The Indian Express on Sunday.
Around 200 large jewellery showrooms located on Palace Road, University Road and Mavdi Road of the city are members of the RGDA and Saholiya said that all of them have agreed to support the voluntary lockdown.
Another 550 smaller retail outlets, wholesale outlets and manufacturers are members of Gems and Jewellery Association (GJAR), another industry body in the city, which also appealed to its members on Saturday to keep their outlets open for the minimal time.
“We appealed to our members on July 9 to keep their shops open only between 10 and 4 pm till July 19. As many of the fellow jewellers and workers have contracted the infection, we have appealed our members again to remain open only if absolutely necessary, that too, between 10 am and 2 pm for a week from Monday,” GJAR president, Divyesh Patadiya, said.
The number of Covid-19 cases in Rajkot, among the biggest gold and silver jewellery manufacturing hubs in Gujarat, have been steadily increasing. On Saturday, the number of new cases crossed 50 for the first time.
The disease has claimed lives of jewellers like Paresh Zaveri, Suresh Adesara and his elder brother Kanti and Mukund Adesara. Suresh’s wife also tested positive and is in hospital.
Saholiya and Patadiya said that the pandemic-related lockdown and subsequent disruption in economy has reduced the jewellery business in the city to just 10 per cent of its normal average.
“Rajkot is a hub of jewellery manufacturing and whole-sale trade with a daily turnover of around Rs 25 crore. But people’s financial capacity to purchase jewellery has reduced and they are not willing to come out of their homes amid the pandemic,” said Saholiya.
The RGDA president said that soaring gold prices, which have crossed Rs 50,000 per 10 grams were also a factor of slackness in the jewellery market.
“It is true that gold is emerging as a preferable asset for investors in the environment of uncertainties caused by the pandemic. But investors don’t purchase jewellery much and instead go for gold coins, bars and biscuits,” said Saholiya.
Patadiya said that around two lakh people, including around 50,000 workers from West Bengal, directly or indirectly are employed in the jewellery market of Rajkot.
“On normal days, Rajkot jewellers convert around 50 kilograms of bullion into gold ornaments and much more into silver jewellery. But 80 per cent of the workers from West Bengal left for their native state during the lockdown that began in March,” Patadiya said, claiming any sizeable jewellery market in the country would have jewellery manufactured in Rajkot.
The association leader said that Soni Bazzar, the main jewellery market, is a congested place marked by narrow lanes and smaller shops where maintaining social distance becomes a big challenge.
“Jewellers are allowing entry into their shops to only those customers wearing masks and after they sanitise their hands at the door. But business means interaction of workers, customers and shop-owners… hence there’s the risk contracting the infection,” said Patadiya.
The GJAR president said that his organisation was not using the term “shutdown” to ensure that wages and salaries of workers and salesmen are not affected.
“We are appealing minimal working hours. If we appeal for a shutdown, shop-owners and jewellers tend not to pay the workers. These are tough times and workers need support of the industry,” Patadiya said.
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