Ayub Bengali, master gold craftsman, has left Meerut, where he has worked for 20 years, to go back to his village in the Hooghly district of West Bengal and resume farming on the little patch of land his family owns. The fluctuating international price of gold, following the global financial meltdown, has left him with no work.
“I sat idle for some weeks but then decided to give it up at least temporarily,” said Bengali. “I know nothing about farming, but I suppose I will learn.”
He rattles off names — Azizul Mohammad, Jainal Malik, Baloo Polishwala, Anamat, Muzam, Sanwar — other craftsmen who have also left in recent weeks. “Nearly 20 per cent of the 30,000-odd gold artisans in Meerut — most of them Bengalis — have left, because there is no work for them,” says Sarvesh Sarraf, general secretary of the Meerut Bullion Traders Association.
Meerut’s bullion market, one of Asia’s largest, sources gold from all over the world, consuming 50 to 60 kilograms of it every day, and turning it into exquisitely crafted ornaments.
“Apart from the global crisis, the government’s decision to allow online trading in gold has disturbed the price further,” says Sarraf.
“I’ve had to cut the number of artisans I employ by half,” says Sanjeev Kapoor, a leading goldsmith. “I’m getting far fewer orders than before.”