Jewellers across the country will go on a 'token strike' on August 23 against the "arbitrary implementation" of mandatory hallmarking of gold jewellery, All India Gem and Jewellery Domestic Council (GJC) said on Friday.
The strike will be supported by 350 associations and federations from all four zones of the entire gems and jewellery industry, the GJC claimed.
Mandatory gold hallmarking has come into force from June 16 in a phased manner.
The government has identified 256 districts from 28 states and union territories for the phase-1 implementation.
Gold hallmarking, a purity certification of the precious metal, was voluntary in nature so far.
"The one-day token strike is our peaceful protest against arbitrary implementation of HUID (hallmark unique identification number), which is impractical and unimplementable," Ashok Minawala, past chairman of GJC, said in a statement.
Minawala is a jewellers' representative on government-appointed committees and Director of Danabhai Jewellers Group.
He said jewellers cannot accept the new HUID as it has nothing to do with the purity of gold.
The BIS feels the new HUID will improve gold purity but jewellers think it is just a tracking mechanism.
Stating that the HUID system is extremely time consuming, GJC Director Dinesh Jain said the current speed and capacity of hallmarking centres is about two lakh pieces per day.
At this speed, it will take 3-4 years to hallmark this years' production.
"Currently, the new HUID system is taking almost 5 to 10 days to hallmark the products, resulting in a complete bottleneck and the industry is on standstill. ...Tonnes of jewellery is lying idle due to delays in the existing hallmarking process and BIS is simply adding fire to our anxiety instead of resolving issues," he said.
It is estimated that yearly almost 10-12 crore gold jewellery pieces are manufactured in India. In addition, existing stock of almost 6-7 crore pieces are yet to be hallmarked.
This takes the total count of pieces to be hallmarked in a year to almost 16-18 crore pieces, he added.
That apart, HUID is not fool-proof as there have been lots of issues such as double HUID on the same piece, same HUID on multiple jewellery etc, he said, adding that these are already brought to the notice of the BIS.
Mumbai Wholesale Gold Jewellery Association president Prakash Kagrecha said jewellers have welcomed the hallmarking and the growth in registration has risen from 34,000 to 88,000 jewellers, which shows the jewellers commitment towards consumers.
"However, the hallmarking centres have been reduced as 83 centres have been either suspended or cancelled.
"The new HUID process involves cutting, melting, and scraping of jewellery, which is intended to sell. The entire process of hallmarking is defeated when a jewellery has been damaged," he said.
Further, this process eliminates the instant consumer friendly services, which is the biggest USP of this sector.
Removal of the jeweller's name from the jewellery will be detrimental to the interest of consumers when they wish to sell or exchange, he added.
According to the council, the penal and criminal consequences on the jewellers -- who have not manufactured or hallmarked the jewellery and sold it like a trader -- will eventually result in winding up of businesses in fear of 'Inspector Raaj' which has already begun.
The draconian provisions of cancellation of registration for a civil offence is imposed on this trade, where just by a stroke of a BIS officer, resulting in loss of livelihood of millions of employees, artisans and their dependents, it said.
Despite the jewellery industry's continuous demand to consider the NITI Aayog's report on hallmarking to be a benchmark while framing the BIS Act has not been taken into consideration, it added.
Photograph: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters