Congress takes up plea of gold jewellers to cut import duty

Sonia Gandhi
In the run-up to the polls, Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s appeal to the government to reduce the import duty on gold to 10 per cent had raised many eyebrows. Congress sources say that the government’s policies towards the gold and jewellery lobby have always been a sensitive issue and the party has always had to raise the issue with the government. “In this case, the matter concerns gold and that has a sentimental issue for Indians. In election season, there is the overall perception that matters,” said a senior Congress leader.  

While Commerce minister Anand Sharma, who is in Davos, said he was yet to examine the letter, Finance minister P Chidambaram has gone on record to state it could not be de-linked from the impact on Current Account Deficit (CAD) and that would need to be assessed.

The All India Gem and Jewellery Federation had approached the Congress President with their plea that the import duty was too prohibitive. As the sector employs large number of skilled and unskilled workers, the spiral effect of rising costs has an impact on the number of hands employed says a source from the Jewellery Federation. Moreover such a high duty it was argued has encouraged smuggling of the precious metal.

What cannot be ignored is also the fact that the sector has a vote bank of approximately 10 million people. This is a vote bank that spans across classes from the lower middle class to the rich gems and jewellery traders.  

“Above all, gold is an item that has immense sentimental value for Indians and especially women, We use it in all our ceremonies and daily life so any prohibitive duties or pricing has a adverse perception in the minds of people. This cannot be ignored in the election season,” adds the Congress leader.

The Congress’ Gujarat unit it might be recalled had taken up the issue of imposition of 1 per cent excise duty on unbranded jewellery.  

Officially however the Congress maintains it has no information about the issue.

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