On the evening of March 19, 2017, The Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council organised a grand gala dinner to celebrate its Golden Jubilee. It was attended by the various delegations and dignitaries who had gathered from across the world to attend the International Diamond Conference – Mines to Market, which was inaugurated on the same morning; as well as a host of other important invitees from within and outside the industry.
The highlight of the event was an address by the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi, through live video conferencing.
Praveenshankar Pandya making the opening remarks, called the PM “a friend, philosopher and guide” not only of the industry, but of the entire nation. He said it was his support as the then Chief Minister of Gujarat which had led to the transformation of the diamond industry in Surat to a modern one, equipped with state-of-the-art technology.
“What we could not do in 40 years, the PM has managed to accomplish in one stroke,” Pandya continued. “The demonetisation announced by him in November last year has led to the opening of thousands of bank accounts and the making of thousands of Pancards.”
Pandya said that while the industry had been facing challenges in the past few years, the crisis was now dissipating, and the industry was poised to step up to the next level. In order to get there, Pandya put forward several requests before the PM.
He appealed to the PM to intercede at a bilateral level with the Russian President in future meetings to repeal the duty on polished diamonds being imported into Russia from India. He pointed out that no duty was being paid on the approximately US$ 5 billion worth of rough diamonds being imported into India from Russia.
Pandya requested all material which goes into making of jewellery should be accrue nil tax under the GST regime. He explained that the refund process was cumbersome and it would cause difficulties for small manufacturers. Pandya also asked that jobwork be allowed.
Referring to the PM’s advice given earlier to do for jewellery what had been achieved by the diamond industry, Pandya requested for the Government’s support to create Jewellery Parks in various centres in the country. This, he said would make top-end infrastructure available to jewellery manufacturers. He pledged that the GJEPC would work towards making India a No. 1 source of jewellery by 2022.
Pandya announced that, on behalf of the entire industry, he was handing over a sum of Rs. 21 crore as a contribution to several of the PM’s projects like those for women’s welfare, cleaning of the Ganga and ‘Swachch Bharat’.
Shri Modi acknowledged the contributions to the various projects and thanked the industry.
He said that since the GJEPC was created 50 years ago, the gems and jewellery has made rapid strides.
“India is the largest manufacturer of cut & polished diamonds and a leading sector in value terms and employment,” the PM said. “Exports of gems and jewellery products amount to 15% of India’s total merchandise exports. This is a great success story.”
He pointed out that till recently, diamantaires had to go abroad to view and buy rough diamonds. “In December 2014at the World Diamond Conference held in Delhi, I announced in the presence of the Russian President that we would set up a Special Notified Zone. That promise has been kept. The laws have been changed to allow the import and export of rough diamonds from the zone. And it has shown good results. Earlier, only 80-90 big merchants had the opportunity to source rough directly from miners, now some 3000 entrepreneurs including small and medium ones, have this privilege through the SNZ. About 244 days of viewings have been held. My idea is that India should not only be the largest diamond manufacturing centre but should become an International Trading Hub.”
Outlining his goals of a Transparent India and Skill India, the PM exhorted the industry to follow both aims.
Saying that “The gems and jewellery industry is a prime example of ‘Make in India’,” the PM went on to offer words of advice for the future development of the industry.
“We have come a long way, yet, there is a lot to be accomplished” the PM said. “Our future is much bigger than cutting & polishing diamonds alone.”
He added: “India is a follower of global fashion rather than a setter of global style.” He went on to say that the Indian jewellery manufacturing industry should create its own designs for international markets. Also, he told the industry, it was important to have a thorough knowledge of its markets and clients.
Further, he called upon the industry to encourage e-commerce and start-ups in the jewellery sector.
Russell Mehta making the concluding remarks at the Video Conference expressed his and the industry’s gratitude to the PM for taking the time to make the address despite his busy schedule.
He also requested that the Government to consider the issue of turnover tax for the Indian diamond industry; as other centres either attracted no tax or had a turnover tax regime in place. Mehta said that due to the lack of an enabling tax framework, there were no sales taking place from the SNZ and currently buyers could only view, but had to import the goods from outside the country.
At the conclusion of the Video Conference, Shri Nanubhai Vanani, MLA from Gujarat; and Smt. Darshana were felicitated. A plaque commemorating the occasion was also unveiled.
On the occasion, the GJEPC also felicitated and honoured past Chairmen of the GJEPC which included: Manhar Bhansali, Kaushik Mehta, Sanjay Kothari, Bakul Mehta, Vasant Mehta, Rajiv Jain, Vipul Shah, and Praveenshankar Pandya.