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After 21 Days, Jewellers, Bullion Traders Call Off Strike

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Bullion traders and jewellers on Saturday called off their 21-day nationwide strike after meeting UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee who assured them that their demand for rollback of excise duty on unbranded jewellery would be considered.

"We have notified all our members to call off the agitation with immediate effect," Dinesh Jain, Director of Governing Board, All-India Gems and Jewellery Trade Federation, told PTI.

Most of the jewellery shops would open from Saturday, Friday being holiday on account of Good Friday.

Traders are estimated to have lost Rs 20,000 crore due to the strike which began on March 17 after presentation of the Budget on the previous day.

Jewellers, however, threatened that strike would resume again if the proposal to levy excise duty of one per cent is not withdrawn in the Finance Bill, which is expected to come up before Parliament early next month.

"The strike has been suspended till May 11, as the Finance Minister has assured us on a decision on rollback on excise duty and customs duty by first week of May," Jain said.

Delhi-based All India Sarafa Association General Secretary Surendra Jain also said that their members have also agreed to suspend the strike.

Some of traders who met Mukherjee, said the Finance Minister has assured them that their grievances with regard to levy of 1 per cent excise duty on unbranded jewellery would be addressed.

Before traders met Gandhi, Congress General Secretary Janardhan Dwivedi said the party has asked the government to consider jewellers' demand sympathetically. .


Earlier, All India Sarafa Association General Secretary Surendra Jain said, "We have decided to suspend the strike till May 10."

A Karol Bagh Jewellers Association President Vijay Khanna also said that strike has been called off.

Some of traders who met UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi in the morning and later Mukherjee, said the Finance Minister has assured them that their grievance with regard to levy of 1 per cent excise duty on unbranded jewellery would be addressed.

However, since the proposal is a part of the Finance Bill pending in Parliament, "there is a protocol to be followed," a trader quoted Mukherjee as saying. The Finance Bill is expected to be taken up for consideration early May.

Congress General Secretary Janardhan Dwivedi said the party has asked the government to consider jewellers' demand sympathetically.

Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) Chairman S K Goel said that Mukherjee assured traders that he would address their concerns at the time of consideration of the Finance Bill 2012 in Parliament and "associations have agreed to withdraw the strike".

"We will decide on calling off strike...industry lost nearly Rs 20,000 crore due to this strike and the government lost nearly Rs 1,200 crore (in revenue)," All India Gems and Jewellery Trade Federation Chairman Bachhraj Bamalwa said after meeting with the Finance Minister.

Ahead of the meeting of jewellers with Gandhi, the Congress had asked the government to look into the demands of jewellers, who have been agitating for more than a fortnight.

"Congress has asked the government to consider the demand of jewellers sympathetically," AICC General Secretary and media department chief Janardhan Dwivedi said.

Bullion traders and jewellers are protesting since the presentation of the Budget which had imposed excise duty on unbranded jewellery, raised customs duty on gold and proposed TDS requirement on sale of jewellery.

The representatives of the jewellery associations have also met Mukherjee yesterday to press for their demand for removal of duties on gold and unbranded jewellery. They met the Minister again on Friday.

Mukherjee, while replying to a debate on Budget in Lok Sabha last month, had assured the jewellers that he would consider their demands but ruled out reduction in customs duty on gold, which was doubled to 4 per cent.

Various jewellers associations, including Bullion Traders Association, Market Sarafa Association, and diamond traders have been on strike since March 17.

Mukherjee in his Budget for 2012-13 had imposed 1 per cent excise duty on all unbranded jewellery and doubled the import duty to 4 per cent on gold. He also announced that quoting of PAN card would be mandatory for purchase of jewellery worth more than Rs 2 lakh.

(Agencies)