By Hardik Hundiya (Writer is the diamond industry expert from Mumbai)
Surat: For the last many decades, Mumbai in Maharashtra is known as the hub of diamond trading in the world. But, the establishment of the world-class Surat Diamond Bourse (SDB) at the Diamond Research and Mercantile (DREAM) city in Surat’s Khajod has cast a dark shadow on the fortunes of the diamond trade in Mumbai.
In a tete-a-tete with The Blunt Times (TBT), a diamond industry expert from Mumbai, Hardik Hundiya revealed that the diamond trading is shifting, not because of the policies of Maharashtra Chief Minister, Uddhav Thackeray, but a majority of the diamantaires—especially the Saurashtrian Patels—are keen on shifting their trading base to Surat, hoping to getter better infrastructure facilities with the setting up of the world-class diamond bourse.
Mumbai, according to Hundiya, houses Asia’s largest diamond bourse—Bharat Diamond Bourse—from where the diamonds cut and polished in Surat and other parts of Gujarat are directly exported to the foreign countries. The government of Maharashtra has provided all required facilities to ensure the growth of the diamond trade in the country.
Even during the coronavirus-induced lockdown in the country, the export of polished diamonds from Mumbai continued unabated. Industry leaders spearheading the Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) have always received pro-active support from the Central and State Governments, irrespective of the political parties ruling the state and at the Centre.
Talking with TBT, Hundiya said, “Social media is abuzz with messages stating the diamond trading is shifting base from Mumbai to Surat and Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray is solely responsible for the shift”
Hundiya added, “These are baseless allegations against the CM of Maharashtra. There is an anti-Surat lobby, trying to divert the issue of ‘clear division’ amongst the diamantaires. There is no compelling reason to shift the diamond market to Surat, but there are people in the industry who are keen on shifting for their means”
The people responsible, according to Hundiya, are those controlling the Bharat Diamond Bourse (BDB) in Mumbai. It is due to their intimidating behavior that a section of diamantaires feel humiliated and ill-treated, and thus want to move out of Mumbai.
Diamantaires are made to cough up crores of rupees in the name of a security deposit, who is getting the security money to ensure the work of diamantaires does not stop? Hundiya said, “The state government of Maharashtra should order a fair investigation into the state-of-affairs in the diamond bourse, then they may find the same set of people are responsible for driving out the diamantaires from Mumbai”
Hundiya said, “The diamond market is ruled by the Saurashtrian Patels. They (Patels) have a controlling stake in diamond manufacturing and trading. The Saurashtrian diamantaires have worked hard with honesty and dignity to snatch away the crown from the Palanpuri Jains.
The Surat Diamond Bourse (SDB) project in Surat was conceived by the top-notch diamond barons—Saurashtrian Patels—led by the chairman of Kiran Gems, Vallabh Lakhani. The bourse is all set to be operational by the end of this year and that almost all the offices are booked.
The efforts of Saurashtrian Patels have paid off and the SDB is soon going to be up and functioning. Mumbai is the commercial hub of India and that the diamond industry has earned a bad name world-over for the sensational bank defaults by Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi running into crores of rupees.
It is the responsibility of the GJEPC to keep the Central and State governments updated with the illegal activities going on in the diamond industry. But, GJEPC approaches the governments whenever they want relief in the duty structure and for seeking other benefits for the industry. When it comes to addressing the issues faced by the traders and artisans, the GJEPC office-bearers are always mum, said Hundiya.