Coming down heavily on top guns in the diamond trade in the country, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi on Friday warned key players that workers engaged in manufacturing gems and jewellery cannot be left in the lurch in the current global recession.
"It is a group of some 50 industrialists and traders who made hay while the sector thrived, earning hugely. Now when the recession has hit the trade, severely affecting the workers, the barons of the trade cannot escape their moral responsibility.
They should join hands with the government and other partners to turn the global recession into an opportunity to make a foray into the vast untapped global market," Modi said inaugurating the three-day 'Sparkle International Gems and Jewelery' convention at Surat on Friday.
Modi's reprimand came at a time when the top players in the industry said they had laid off workers in diamond cutting and polishing.
Gitanjali Group chairman and managing director Mehul Choksi, who is also chairman of Ficci's Gems and Jewellery Committee, had earlier said that the global recession had forced traders to recently lay off 100,000 workers in diamond cutting and polishing.
Ficci and the Gujarat government organised the convention as part of the Vibrant Gujarat Global Investor's Summit 2009 to showcase Surat as an emerging diamond jewellery manufacturing centre.
Modi said no trader or industrialist came to him when VAT was removed on diamond in Gujarat, resulting in huge profits to businessmen, who "invested the profits earned in the realty sector".
"The Gujarat government's initiatives like pumping in Rs 1,500 crore (Rs 15 billion) in the Jyoti Gram Yojna helped the industry to book huge profits. Now at a time of crisis they should help the artisans, workers and skilled labourers," Modi said.
He said the Government envisaged making Gujarat the global leader in diamonds. "Gem and jewellery could be promoted as a cottage industry and branded on the pattern of Amul. We are confident of achieving this by 2010," Modi said, addressing nearly 250 foreign as well domestic business delegates, including Rapaport Group chairman Martin Rapaport.
Earlier, Ficci secretary general Amit Mitra spoke of challenges faced by the gem industry and sought government support for a targeted value addition to take the annual trade to $125 billion by 2015.