It is very much likely that the diamond industry in Surat will come back to its original pace of activities within next two or three months according to market sources. However not slow-down but shortage of diamond workers is the latest problem here, and it seems this problem will last longer than the problem of international economic slow-down.
A year ago, before slow-down, Surat had 4200 small and medium scale diamond units in which 2.5 lakh workers were employed. However, international slow-down impact was felt in the city’s diamond industry in September-October last year due to lack of international demand of diamonds. This resulted in closure of most of the diamond units. In the beginning of the year 2009, around 1.5 lakh Diamond workers of Surat migrated to other employment options such as Textile, Embroidery and farming.
Though slow-down is still alive, international market for diamond is improving nowadays and it is possible that the market will come to its original status within next two months or so. In Surat, 3400 to 3500 units out of 4200 have started working again. However, the problem these days is about shortage of workers, because of which production is 60 to 65 less than what it should be.
According to market sources, workers are hesitant to return to diamond market due to their bitter experience during the worst period of slow-down. Diamond workers don’t want to gamble their lives again. In fact recently there was a Gujarati film in theaters “Have maare hiraa nathi ghasvaa”(Now I don’t want to work as a diamond worker) reflecting the mood of diamond workers in the state.
The fact of Surat’s diamond industry is that there are no labor laws implied, no job security, no provident fund for workers. Nothing is regulated or organized. Diamond unit managements themselves feel that they would have to be professional in behavior and practice to ensure presence of committed workforce again.
“Diamond workers wanted” are the words that street-side painters of Surat have painted most on the sign-boards in last some weeks. Most of the diamond units have such sign boards hanging outside, but there are fewer takers than expected.