NEW DELHI, Dec 17: Even as the diamond industry the world over passing through a serious crisis due to global economic slowdown and further accentuated by the tough stand taken by the G7 countries on Russian diamonds, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday inaugurated the Surat Diamond Bourse (SDB), the world’s largest and modern centre for international diamond and jewellery business, in Surat in his home state of Gujarat.
Claimed to be the world’s largest office complex with over 67 lakh square feet of floor area spread in nine 15-storey interconnected towers with offices ranging from 300 square feet to 7,5000 sq ft, the SDB building is targeting at shifting the diamond trading business from Mumbai to Surat, which is the hub of diamond cutting and polishing with thousands of factories across the city.
While opening the new project, Mr Modi called the building as another diamond in the city. “One more diamond has been added to Surat’s magnificence. The tall buildings around the world have lost their sheen in front of such a huge diamond that is now being opened today.” “Surat diamond industry provides employment to around 8 lakh people, and with the coming up of new diamond bourse, 1.5 lakh more jobs will be added,” he said. The Prime Minister congratulated the team for the project and called while describing the project as an “emblem of new India and its strength.”
Earlier in the day, Modi also inaugurated a new integrated terminal building at Surat Airport, which was recently given the international status. The passenger building is capable of handling 35 lakh passengers annually and 1,800 passengers during peak hours with provision for expanding to handle 55 lakh passengers annually and 3,000 passengers during peak hours. The building is spread over 25,500 sq km at a cost of Rs 353 crore having 20 check-in counters, five conveyor belts and 500 car parking slots and 13 new parking bays for aircrafts.
At the SDB which was launched in 2015, besides offices of trading of cut and polished diamonds and agents dealing with import of rough stones from international markets, 27 retail jewellery outlets will also be opened to complete the value chain of diamond jewellery. Recently, G7 group of countries have announced direct import restrictions on Russian-origin diamonds from January and diamonds processed by third countries like India from March, which has raised major concerns for the Indian gems and jewellery trade and diamond processing industry in Surat.
The restrictions are however applicable to diamonds sized a carat or above in G7 countries, while diamonds sized half a carat or more will be banned in September 2024, and a new system to trace origin of the stones will be introduced. In Surat, the Russian diamonds of less than 0.5 carats are cut and polished, which means the impact of the ban by G7 will not be that severe, according to factory owners.
However, in September, GJEPC (Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council) and other trade bodies had directed members to halt import of rough diamonds for two months from October 15, amid a steep rise in inventory of polished diamonds due to a sharp fall in exports in western countries and China.
“The situation is very bad for the workers or artisans in Surat. In last one year, 30 artisans have committed suicides due to financial difficulties,” Bhavesh Tank; Vice President of Surat Diamond Workers’ Union, claimed. “Many small and medium sized factories have not even opened after the Diwali vacation or they have downsized their operations affecting workers,” he said, adding that the state or centre government must intervene to help the workers.