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Working to make India 'jewels capital of the world'

Perking up India's status as the jewels capital of the world is the theme for this plan, reports Srinand.

india Updated: Jan 26, 2007 21:03 IST
Srinand

Perking up India's status as the jewels capital of the world is the theme for this plan.

If endeavours of the UPA Government come thorough, India should shortly overcome the problem of the shortage of raw material for its gems and jewellery industry.

On the anvil is a joint venture with Russia (expected to be finalised this year), while advanced stage of discussions are in progress with a number of countries including Canada, Australia, South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Ghana, Angola, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Uzbekistan and Venezuela.

India's position is odd: It maintains a status as a world leader in the gems and jewellery industry, but its exports are entirely dependant on imports of rough diamonds, gold and other coloured gemstones.

The country presently imports $8 billion of rough diamonds - but this remains woefully short of the industry's requirement. "Security of supply of raw material is a critical issue", says Commerce Minister Jairam Ramesh.

While focussing on imports, the UPA Government also plans to develop 'internal sources' of raw material. Preliminary explorations conducted by global companies in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh have revealed good prospects for diamonds and coloured gemstones. "With aggressive exploration, Indian sources can be developed over the next decade", Ramesh feels.

The diamond sector accounts for 80 per cent of the total exports of gems and jewellery and is estimated to employ close to 10 lakh artisans and workers. The gold industry accounts for 15 per cent of the exports in the sector and has expanded lately in areas including Maharashtra, Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata, Chennai and Hyderabad. The coloured gemstone industry has been on a rapid growth trajectory in the states of Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Delhi.

The MR Sivaraman Committee - submitted lately - has recommended a growth oriented fiscal regime for the gems and jewellery industry for strengthening India's position and enabling Mumbai to emerge as the world hub - replacing Antwerp.

Over past months, the UPA Government has undertaken a number of initiatives to boost the industry. Extensive assistance has been provided to establish the Indian Institute of Gems and Jewellery in Mumbai and the Sardar Vallabhbhai Institute for Jewellery Design and Manufacture at Surat.

An expansion of the Indian Diamond Institute in Surat is also on the anvil. Maikanchan SEZ in Kolkata is the first-ever project in this industry and another SEZ is being developed in Sitapura near Jaipur.