Unlock 3.0: Surat diamond industry limps back to work

Soon after Unlock 1, the industry – which is estimated to polish nine of 10 rough diamonds in the world – resumed operations, but a surge in cases at diamond polishing cluster, especially in Katargam and Varachha, forced units to go into a voluntary lockdown, which continued until recently.

With daily Covid-19 cases stabilising in Surat and Unlock 3.0 set to kick in, the city’s diamond industry is slowly resuming operations.

The civic authorities have allowed a maximum of two diamond polishing workers at each table, against the earlier practice of four, based on an industry representation.

Surat, the world’s largest diamond polishing hub, has been reeling from the pandemic with a flurry of positive cases bringing its diamond polishing industry to a near standstill.

Soon after Unlock 1, the industry – which is estimated to polish nine of 10 rough diamonds in the world – resumed operations, but a surge in cases at diamond polishing cluster, especially in Katargam and Varachha, forced units to go into a voluntary lockdown, which continued until recently.

Around 1,700 diamond polishing workers in the hubs of Katargam and Varachha have tested positive.

Several units have been even penalised by the Surat Municipal Corpor­a­t­i­on for flouting social distancing norms.

According to Dinesh Nava­diya, regional chairman of Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC), the civic authorities, including the municipal commissioner and the city mayor, have allowed certain relaxations, helping resume work at polishing units.

For instance, the number of hours of operations has been extended from four hours to six hours.

“As against the previous order of allowing operations between 2 pm and 6 pm, now units can operate between 12 pm and 6 pm,” Navadiya said.

Diamond units in the city were closed during the lockdo­wn, but started servicing pending orders when Unlock 1 kic­ked in.

Soon, exports to the key mar­ket of Hong Kong started to pick up, while trade with Europe and the US resumed.

Also, to ease inventory of rough diamonds – estimated at $2 billion – the industry went for a voluntary ban on the import of these precious stones.

Rough diamonds worth over Rs 6,700 crore were imported in June 2019.

In May 2020, the number stood at roughly Rs 610 crore.

Industry players were hoping for an early revival until Covid-19 hit them again.

The city, so far, has reported 10,757 cases, as against 25,080 in Ahmedabad.

Photograph: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

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