According to Hindu mythology, buying gold is considered auspicious on the occasion of Gudi Padwa, the Maharashtrian New Year. Every Maharashtrian who is a stickler for tradition can be seen going to buy gold according to his/her budget on this day.
However, on the first day of the Chaitra month of the Hindu calendar this year, most gold jewellery manufacturers, wholesalers, and retail showroom owners across Mumbai chose to keep their shutters down, much to the disappointment of buyers.
Bandra resident Sunanda Sawant, 38, who usually makes it a point to buy gold on Gudi Padwa every year, said, “I am aware of the strike, but I was sure that gold shops would be open at least on a muhurat day like this when so many Maharashtrians throng their shops. The entire stretch of Bazaar Road, which has several gold shops is shut. This is a great let down for people like me.”
Gold jewellers across the country have been on a strike since March 2 after Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced that gold jewellery will be liable for a 1% excise duty levy from April 1. The last time this happened in 2012, the UPA government had tried to impose a similar excise duty. Back then, gold associations had stuck to their guns and went on a strike for 21 days, forcing the then government to withdraw its proposal.
This time, the jewellers’ strike is at day 38 as of Friday.
Although there were a few shops in Dadar that remained open, most of them had their shutters halfway down. “This is one festival when we see a huge footfall of customers and there is a sharp spike in sales. However, because of the strike, we have not opened our shop or displayed the jewellery. We are just here to do pooja as per the custom we follow every year,”said an employee of Shree Swami Samrat jewellery store in Dadar said.
Meanwhile, certain shops welcomed customers albeit with a few clauses. “We are not allowing customers to swipe their cards. We are actually supposed to be shut, but there is so much demand that we cannot afford to lose out on business now. As of now, we are giving our buyers manual bills. Only after the strike ends can we give them the proper printed bills,” said a staff member of one of the jewellery stores in the area on the condition of anonymity.
Most other shop owners allowing customers in said only select customers were being allowed in because they had made pre-orders. Jeweller Bharat Jain from Chembur said, “I have kept my shop open for two hours, from 12 to 2 pm for just those customers who had placed their orders for marriages in the family. We had informed them the timings in advance.”
It was the same situation in Thane as well, with most lanes famous for their jewellery stores bearing a deserted look.”Certain gold shops we visit frequently, have asked customers to come around noon, because that is when they are going to be open. They have shut the shop from outside, to show the government that they are running a loss,” said Thane resident Vinayak Kangne.
Another jeweller Ajit Karandikar from Khetwadi claimed that several customers, who were eager to buy gold on the occasion, have resorted to online purchases. “Many of my customers are buying gold from online sites. Thus, they have not missed out on the celebrations, but sadly we are the ones losing out on business,” he lamented.