India jewellers call off strike against excise tax

New Delhi / Bloomberg

Jewellers in India, the world’s second-biggest gold consumer, ended a strike to protest against a new tax announced in the budget after the government assured them the charges won’t lead to harassment by authorities.
The strike, which started on March 2, ended after the government agreed not to “trouble the industry” over the excise levy, Ketan Shroff, spokesman at Mumbai-based India Bullion and Jewellers Association Ltd., said in a text message.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced in his Feb. 29 budget an excise levy of 1 percent on ornaments produced and sold in India. The jewellers, who lost about $150 million a day during the strike, say they expect customers to return in “big numbers.” A similar shutdown in 2012, when jewelers closed for three weeks, was successful in getting the previous government to drop plans for an excise duty.
“Shops will be opening after being closed for more than two weeks and we will see a rush of consumers for one week,” said Bachhraj Bamalwa, director at the All India Gems & Jewellery Trade Federation.
“The government has formed a committee to look into our problems and it will come out with a report in 60 days. Until then they have assured us that excise department officials will not trouble jewelers over the collection of the duty.”
The excise department has pledged to ensure problem-free documentation for jewelers filing excise registration and directed its officials not to visit jewelers’ premises for post-registration verification, the central Board of Excise and Customs, said in a newspaper advertisement.

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