Monday, July 25, 2011

Surat-Mumbai diamond business regains sparkle

Ghanshyam Gabani, a small diamond trader from Surat, boarded the Flying Ranee for Mumbai on Monday morning with polished diamonds worth Rs 80 lakh. "As there are summer holidays in Israel and Belgium, we expect the market to perform well because there are likely to be more buyers from these countries," said Gabani, who is going back to Mumbai for the first time since the serial blasts of 13/7.

More than 5,000 small diamond traders like Gabani boarded Mumbai-bound trains on Monday from Surat, the world's biggest diamond cutting and polishing centre. Mumbai, where polished gems worth Rs 1,000 crore are traded every day, gives them the best price for their sparklers.

Unlike the big and medium diamond firms which have their trading offices in Opera House, small diamond traders from Surat travel to Mumbai to sell polished stones . Industry sources say that about 40 per cent of the polished gems traded in Mumbai come from Surat's diamond traders.

Every Monday, these traders board Mumbai-bound trains carrying diamonds worth up to a crore of rupees in small packets concealed in their clothes. They stay in rented houses in Walkeshwar and Napean Sea Road areas and return to their families in Surat on weekends. A miniscule percentage of traders, though, travel daily between Surat and Mumbai as trains such as Flying Ranee reach them there in five hours.

Gabani confessed that the fear of being caught in a blast haunts him. "Yes, I am afraid. But I have to go to Mumbai to sell my stock," he said.

Suresh Patel, a diamond trader who was witness to the bloodbath at Opera House on 13/7, said "The images of the dead are fresh in my mind but there is no option. I can sell the polished gems to the local dealers in Surat, but they fetch a better price in Mumbai as they are directly purchased by big merchants."

Dinesh Navadia, president of Surat Diamond Association (SDA), said, "Although no diamond trader from Surat was killed in the serial blasts at Opera House, there is a fear psychosis among diamond traders here. Despite this, most of them have gone to Mumbai carrying polished gems worth crores of rupees."

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