The All India Gem And Jewellery Domestic Council (GJC) has written to Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) seeking immediate financial assistance and banking-related relief for the stressed gem, jewelry, and allied businesses post the devastating second wave of the Covid pandemic.

The GJC, which represents lakhs of small and MSME jewellers and allied trade constituents in the country, cited that the K.V. Kamath-led expert committee constituted by the RBI on August 7, 2020 had included the gem and jewellery sector among the stressed industries in its report submitted on September 4, 2020.

As several jewellers affected by the multiple lockdowns are finding it difficult to repay their loans, the GJC has sought an extension of the moratorium on interest payments for the stressed gem and jewellery sector for a period of six months.

The GJC has urged the Finance Minister and the RBI to extend certain measures – the Resolution Framework 2 and Resolution for MSMEs – to alleviate the uncertainties and stress facing the jewellery business (mostly small businesses and MSMEs).

The GJC requested the government for assistance to restructure the loans given to the gem and jewellery businesses by offering one-time subsidy. The GJC also urged the government to increase the tenure of gold metal loans (GML) from 180 days to 270 (as was done in 2020) or 360 days.

The GJC said the gem and jewellery sector is one of the most affected industries with a potential loss of job of unskilled and poor goldsmiths. The industry is burdened by huge inventory costs, and higher fixed overheads, including interest costs and rentals, among others, it said.

GJC Chairman Ashish Pethe said, “For almost two months of 2021, the domestic gems and jewellery industry and their stores/shops were shut even while key festivals such as Gudi Padwa and Akshaya Tritiya were celebrated amid lockdown for the second year in a row.

“The government allowed weddings during lockdowns, but the jewelry businesses do not fall under the ‘essential’ category. Even after the slow opening by some states, the next few months will be difficult for the industry, which offers livelihood to lakhs of people.

“We request the government to consider our plea of offering financial aid, assistance and relief as has been given to several small businesses and MSMEs in other sectors. We also seek that the benefits that were given in 2020 are extended even in 2021.”

Saiyam Mehra, Vice Chairman, GJC, added, “We urge the government to allow a moratorium on interest for six months to the stressed gem and jewelry sector, and allow six months to pay the accumulated interest in equated monthly installments.”

Talking about the gold metal loan, Pethe said, “GML is currently offered for 180 days, which should be extended to 270 or 360 days as offered to the exporters. The RBI had allowed banks to extend GML validity to 270 days during the lockdown in 2020. We request the government to extend it this time around too.”

The GJC also sought an extension of the moratorium on interest payment for a period of six months on all working capital, term loan, and other credit facilities availed by the sector.