Unrest in diamond industry spreads in Gujarat

July 8th, 2008 - 4:34 pm ICT by IANS  

Ahmedabad, July 8 (IANS) Unrest in the diamond industry over wage hike spread to Palanpur and Mehsana in north Gujarat Tuesday, even as factory owners claimed operations were normal and workers reported for work. “Practically almost all of 4,000 factories were opened today, the situation is peaceful,” said C.P. Vanani, president of the Surat Diamond Association, an organisation representing diamond processing unit owners.

Varani said only about 10 to 15 unit owners were finding it difficult to go along with the 20 percent wage hike proposed by the association.

“We are making all efforts to bring the workers and the owners of factories to resolve the problem,” he told IANS. “I am confident the issue will be settled in about three to four days.”

In Palanpur, workers walked out of factories demanding not only a wage increase but also auxiliary benefits such insurance for workers covering both death and injury. They want Rs.50,000 as compensation in case of death, and Rs.25,000 in case of injury.

In Mehsana workers in about 25 diamond units located in the Gujarat Industrial Development Corp complex are reported to have stopped work over wage revision.

According to reports reaching here, police had to be called in various areas in Surat Monday after workers came out in the streets following the death of a diamond polisher during protests in Bhavnagar, which is also a diamond hub of the state.

In Ahmedabad city, diamond processing units operating on a job-work basis and where work was disrupted Monday over wage revision, are expected to resume operations Wednesday following a settlement.

Gordhan Zadaphia, a former state minister and himself engaged in the diamond processing business, told IANS that “both sides” have arrived at a solution. He did not quantify the hike saying the problem faced by units in Ahmedabad and in Surat was different.

“Here there is no fixed wage. Wages depend on the nature of job work done, the size of the diamond, the amount of work done by a worker,” he said.

Zadaphia said the diamond industry, despite being a major foreign exchange earner, received no state support.

He said the government should offer 50 percent subsidy in power exempting job workers from paying professional tax.

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