While the devaluation of rupee has taken sheen out of the Rs 80,000 crore diamond industry with small entrepreneurs closing down their units rendering around 25,000 unskilled workers jobless, diamonds are glittering in the far-flung tribal belt in south Gujarat.
Earlier on an average, 50 tribals every month were joining the diamond cutting and polishing units in Jhankhvav, Mandvi, Vankal, Ahwa, Dang, border villages of Nandurbar in Maharashtra and Vansda, etc. This number has gone up to 80 in the past two months.
These small units in the tribal areas have been processing the near gem quality low-cost diamonds known as 'star' and 'melee'. These have good demand in the domestic as well as the international markets like the United States.
These small diamonds are valued between Rs 3,000 and Rs 10,000 per carat and are studded in the bling jewellery, pendants, rings and wrist watches.
Kishore Patel, a small unit owner from Surat, who has set up a diamond polishing unit in Zankhvav in Surat district, employing 310 workers, said, "Two years ago, I had started with 40 tribal workers. There are more than 300 workers in my unit at present. Every month four tribal artisans join the unit. There is no effect of rupee depreciation."
As per the industry estimate, around 19,000 tribals are employed in the diamond units having annual turnover of Rs 1,200 crore. Around 60 per cent of the diamonds in the domestic market, with Delhi being the biggest market, and rest are exported to the US, the UK and the UAE among other countries.
Dinesh Navadia, president, Surat Diamond Association (SDA), said, "Prices of rough diamonds in small sizes have largely remain unaffected. The carat price is valued at $40 to $100, depending on the quality. These goods are largely manufactured in tribal areas of south Gujarat and Bhavnagar. After the U.S, India is the second biggest market for the low-cost diamonds."
Tribals are attracted to the industry as they are given additional benefits and gifts like televisions, fridges and mobile phones. Also, the small unit owners, who have set up units in tribal areas provide transportation facility to tribal workers residing in interior villages.
Ramesh Kukadia, owner of Oriana diamonds in Zankhvav, employing 400 workers, has scaled up his annual turnover of Rs 100 crore. Kukadia plans to expand the unit in the next three months and would be employing another 200 tribal workers.
"Tribal workers are highly skillful and they process diamonds with utmost quality and craftsmanship. I have installed latest diamond cutting and polishing equipment in the units. Tribal workers are very quick to adopt the technology," said Kukadia.