While there are conflicting reports coming from the Indian media, it appears that jewelers in the New Dehli today (April 13) temporarily called off their 42-day strike for 12 days after the government's assurance that there will be no harassment by excise officials. Since March 2, more than 50,000 jewelers in the state had been on strike, protesting against the imposition of 1% excise duty on non-silver jewelry as well as the mandatory requirement of customers' PAN numbers for transactions worth more than Rs 2 lakh ($3,000). "We have decided to temporarily call off the strike till April 24 after the government's assurance," said Surinder Kumar Jain, Vice-President of All India Sarafa Association. Jewelers in Maharashtra also called off their strike temporarily from April 14 to April 24, said Fatechand Ranka, President of the Maharashtra Rajya Saraf Suvarnakar Federation. Jewelers, bullion traders and artisans also reopened their establishments yesterday in Rajasthan. Ram Avtar Verma, President of the Bullion and Jewellery Association, adds that, "If the government does not consider our demand of rolling back its decision of imposing 1 per cent excise duty, we will resume our strike from April 25."
The Times of India downplayed the conditional aspect of the end-of-strike, claiming simply that the strike ends today after a meeting of representatives of various jewelers' associations with senior ministers in New Delhi on Tuesday night. Ashish Zaveri, spokesperson of Gujarat Jewellers Association (GJA), said that, "Around 70% of our demands have been accepted by the central government." The TOI also writes that, "According to insiders, most jewelers are already reconciled to the fact that the government is in no mood to rollback the excise duty, and hence there in no point in keeping their shops closed," though this does not sound consistent with reports from elsewhere.
In 2005 and 2012, the government introduced the 1% excise duty in the sector, but was forced to roll back the measure. This time, the government did not relent. The government has now constituted a panel under former Chief Economic Advisor Ashok Lahri to look into the demands of the jewellers. The sub-committee, which was asked to report in 60 days, will look into issues related to the compliance procedure for excise and other relevant aspects.