Following the relaxation of some restrictions by the authorities of Surat, the diamond cut and polish hub, after the prolonged coronavirus lockdown, with effect from Monday, the 25th of May, permitting factories and workshops to resume production, with only 50% of their workforce and following strict guidelines on hand sanitization and social distancing, desperate diamond merchants unable to sell diamonds for quite a long time, assembled in large numbers in some of the diamond markets of Surat, such as Varaccha and Mahidapura, flouting all social distancing norms, prompting the police to intervene and disperse the crowds.
The diamond industry associations such as the Surat Diamond Association (SDA) and the Gem and Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) of India, have appealed to their members to stay away from the Varaccha and Mahidapura diamond markets, and co-operate with the authorities in enforcing the health regulations, especially in the context that parts of Varaccha are still under containment and hence to assist in the control of further spread of the virus.
The diamond industry leaders have requested diamond merchants to make maximum use of the social media platforms to connect with each other and thereby avoid visiting the diamond markets in the interests of their own safety.
Around 5,000 diamond merchants are estimated to operate from the diamond markets of Varaccha and Mahidapura, majority of them operating from open areas in the market. According to industry sources the daily turnover of the diamond trade in the two markets is estimated to be around Rs. 500 Crore, and the diamonds traded in these markets are shipped to Mumbai from where they are exported to various countries.
Commenting on the need to disperse the traders, President of the SDA, Babu Kathiriya said, “from the last two days, diamond merchants are gathering at the Varaccha diamond market and the social distancing norms have gone for a toss. Part of Varaccha is still under containment and we don’t want the virus to spread further. We have appealed to the merchants not to gather in the markets. Only the diamond offices must operate with less than 50% workforce. For trading purposes, diamond merchants should make optimum use of social media to connect with the traders and manufacturers.”
Commenting on the need for revised guidelines from the authorities to restart diamond trading, in the context that diamonds cannot be sold without physical touch and examination, Manhar Sutaria, a member of the Surat Diamond Merchants Association, said, “Following social distancing is a big problem in the diamond markets. We can’t sell diamonds without physical touch. We are awaiting revised guidelines from the administration to restart our business. Until then we have appealed to our merchants not to gather in the markets.”