GJC seeks deferment of mandatory hallmarking. All India Gem & Jewellery Domestic Council (GJC), the national apex body of the gems and jewellery industry, has urged the government to defer implementation of mandatory hallmarking of gold jewellery by a year due to delay in preparedness following Covid-19 related lockdown and market closure.
As per the existing guidelines, the government is all set to implement mandatory hallmarking of gold jewellery from June 2021. GJC has urged the government to implement the implementation from June 2022.
Also, out of the 733 districts in the country, only 245 districts now have assaying and hallmarking (A&H) centres (as per the Bureau of Indian Standard – BIS – data) and GJC urged the BIS to ensure that there is at least one A&H Centre in every district in the country.
Data compiled by BIS showed, there are 940 A&H centres spread in 245 districts across India and the number of jewellers registered with BIS is 31,585. However, the percentage of districts in several key Indian States without hallmarking centres is very high.
There is no presence of hallmarking centres in 488 districts with no hallmarking centre in nearly 66.58% of the country’s population. Around 245 districts have hallmarking centres but they are concentrated only in and around the urban area or clusters where there is a heavy concentration of jewellers.
It is an admitted fact that only 8% of the entire country has the access to A&H centres. A&H Centres in rural districts of the country, where such centres are not currently present may not present entrepreneurs with commercial viability and hence there is little impetus to open an A&H Centre in such districts.
“There are various operational and procedural issues in relation to the implementation of the mandatory requirement, which if unaddressed will create an obstacle for compliance of the hallmarking requirements. This will also severely affect the jewellery industry, leading to drastic consequences such as cessation of business, loss of livelihood, litigation and unnecessary waste of time and energy. Mandatory hallmarking in its current state has the potential to affect the livelihood of millions of people and will lead to huge disruption in the century’s old jewellery business. Due to Covid-19, the jewellery business is already suffering, and mandatory hallmarking should be postponed by at least a year till the infrastructure is in place,” said Ashish Pethe, Chairman, GJC.
BIS should consider setting up A&H centres within a radius of 10 km from the location of a jewellery store, said GJC. Given the ongoing Covid -19 pandemic and the fact that various parts of the country continue to be in a lockdown scenario, GJC said that “we understand that establishing fully functional A&H Centres prior to June 1, 2021, seems highly unattainable. Hence, “we recommend that the implementation of the Order is postponed to June 2022 so that the infrastructural requirements are fulfilled,” said GJC in its representation.
There are many states / Union Territories where there are no A&H Centres, i.e. Arunachal Pradesh, Ladakh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu and Lakshadweep. It is important to note that there are many registered jewellers already in some of the above-mentioned states.
Given that the number of A&H centres is noticeably low, jewellers from districts in which there are no A&H centres will have to transport their gold articles to the district where such centres are present. This poses an additional risk of transportation and creates a substantial risk of theft and to human life. Also, the cost involved for transportation of precious jewellery articles to the respective A&H Centres is significantly high and authentic and reliable courier services are not available in almost 80% of the districts and talukas across India.
GJC represented that the artisans and the job-workers existent in locations, which don’t have accessible A&H centres would effectively lose their livelihood. Merely accrediting and approving A&H centres may not simply be the solution.
Such centres are required to have the relevant infrastructure, machinery and trained people. It is an undisputed fact that any A&H centre would require at least three to four months to be commissioned. Considering the timelines for commissioning an A&H centre and the number of such centres that would be required, it must be considered whether the June 1, 2021 timeline for mandatory hallmarking is achievable.
Such scarcity of A&H centres will lead to jewellers closing their business and unemployment will be on a high rise. It is therefore of paramount importance for the government and BIS to first consider the practical issues that would be faced as a result of the lack of easily accessible A&H centres.