After the Russia-Ukraine war, the United States imposed sanctions on the Russian diamond producer Alrosa. However, the Surat diamond industry is in dire straits following the US sanction. In Surat, the diamond polishers, who owe loans to run their households, are trying their best to make ends meet.
There is a deficit of rough diamonds in the Surat industry because Alrosa used to source 30% of Surat’s diamonds. Besides, the US has made it obligatory for diamond engineers to authenticate that the source of the diamond is non-Russian. Thus, the Russia-Ukraine war indirectly impacted the 4,000 small and large Surat polishing units.
The Surat diamond polishing industry employs nearly five lakh people. Earlier, they used to work for ten hours a day for seven days a week. But now, they are working eight hours a day for five days a week since the US imposed the sanctions a month ago. The industry pays the polishers based on the number of diamonds they polish in one day.
Earlier COVID, Now Sanctions
Bhupat Virani, a diamond factory owner and employer of 1,000 diamond polishers, said, “Eight of 10 diamonds found in the world are cut and polished in Surat. Almost 90% of the diamond factory owners rely on the other 10% who import the rough diamonds from Alrosa, Africa, or Dubai. Then, we export these polished diamonds to USA, UK, and Gulf countries.”
Dinesh Navadia, Chairman of Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council, said, “Alrosa exports rough diamonds to various countries. But, maximum diamonds come to Surat for cutting and polishing through different routes. The US sanctions have created a vacuum in this network.”
The industry had just started recovering from the COVID hit, but the United States Sanctions slapped it again. During 2021-22, the diamond industry of Surat saw a growth of 29.85% in the export of cut and polished diamonds.
On May 4, Gujarat’s Diamond Workers Union sent a memorandum to Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel seeking financial aid. The memorandum addressed the demands of the 20 lakh diamond industry workers across the districts of Gujarat. It demanded that registration under the Factory Act be mandatory for diamond factory owners. The members have also asked for a financial package of ₹1,000 crores. In addition to this, they have asked for a Ratna Kalakar Kalyan board for the workers’ betterment.