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India: Gujarat Diamond Workers Suicide in the Face of Crisis

Dreaming of Diamonds by Swamibu

Dreaming of Diamonds by Swamibu

On the following videos we can see and hear about the situation the Gujarat diamond polishers in India are facing. As the world recession and economic crisis affects their industry, thousands are laid off. Unable to feed their families, pay bills or send their children to school, they have to adjust to living hand to mouth, many are turning to suicide as their last resort. The following video, in English and Hindi was uploaded by students of the IIM Ahmedabad as part of their Socio Cultural Environment of Business course explains the role the diamond polishers of Surat in Gujarat had in the industry, and how they've now been cut off the process, leaving formerly bustling factories empty of diamond polishers and replaced with embroidery industry, of which they know nothing about. Highly skilled specialized workers find themselves having to find jobs in different industries, earning much less than before. Their children, who used to attend private schools are now finding themselves barred from presenting exams due to lack of payment:

The situation in Surat is quite serious, as approximately 50% of the diamond cutters and polishers have been laid off. The government is trying to get scholarships to the children of the workers so they can continue their studies. In an Hindustani Times blog, an editorial reads:

The impending crisis has another dimension in Surat — while laid-off workers around the world can usually depend on their families to help tide them over, most of the workers here have entire families in diamond polishing, and all risk losing their jobs or having pay cut drastically at the same time.

On Pragoti.org the number of suicides due to the diamond industry crisis is said to be 71:

Even as Modi’s trumpeteers are jumping in joy over the investment figures, at least 71 diamond polishers have committed suicide in Gujarat over the last few months following their laying off due to the global meltdown severely hitting the industry. Modi, who loves to present himself as a ‘common man’, refused to bail out the diamond workers who remained at the mercy of the shrewd traders…

… Apart from the 71 suicides across Gujarat, the situation among the diamond workers has become so grim that there was near stampede outside the Surat Diamond Association where forms for school fees exemption were being distributed.

Diamond polishing is an exact art, on which the rough stone is transformed intro the brilliant gems that grace jewelry all over the world. In the following video, part of the interactive online documentary “The Diamond Road” [caution, it seems the site has a trojan, reason why I'm not including a link], we see a young diamond polishing apprentice polishing his very first diamond after a three month unpaid apprenticeship:

If you would like to know more about the industry, Jobanputra, on the next videos, gives us a tour of the Sanghavi Diamond processing factory where we see and he explains the whole process from rough stone to gem. On the comprehensive four part video tour of the factory he explains how they follow best practices, don't hire children and ensure their diamonds come from reputable sources and are not “blood diamonds“:

Click to view part 2, part 3 and part 4 of the Diamond Manufacturing Process.

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