Event ReportsPublished on Dec 28, 2019
The trail to get a diamond from stone is a “tale of pain and sadness.”
Tracking the irony of diamond
Although diamonds have been the subject of various movies and books, very little is known about its story in India, rued Santanu Guha Ray, author of the book, Diamond Trail: How India Rose to Global Domination, while initiating a discussion on his book at ORF, Kolkata, on 20 December. Ray, who is also the India Editor of Vienna-headquartered, Central European News, said a crucial part of the value chain that India contributes to the trade is neglected while issues of child labour, terrorism and other human rights violations are well-known and prevalent in the mining areas of Africa or Russia also. Elaborating on India’s diamond trade value-chain, Ray said diamonds are brought (also smuggled) in their crude form to India, especially Surat, Palampur and Kathiawar, all in the western State of Gujarat, and then polished, cut into various shapes and smuggled back to the major diamond trading centres. Ray said the main idea behind the book was the “people behind the trade.” Workers in the mines barely get a respectable share of the total value of the diamond when it is sold by merchants for around Rs.3 crores to Rs. 4 crores, Ray said. This, he argued, is the irony of diamond. The trail to get the diamond from the stone is a “tale of pain and sadness,” Ray said. Dr. Nilanjan Ghosh, Director, ORF Kolkata, who chaired the book discussion, said that the penchant for diamonds has been an age-old one. The scarcity value of diamonds is what gets reflected in the market prices and that is the value. Pointing out that there needs to be a distinction between value and price, Ghosh said this book presents a fascinating account of how essentially Indians, and particularly those based in Surat, went on to become players in the entire value chain of the diamond trade. “This is the first attempt which reflects on tracking the value chain of diamond,” Ghosh said. Shutapa Paul, eminent journalist, said that the book keeps up with the time that we live in; diamantaire Nirav Modi case brought back the focus on the diamond trade in India. Prof. Hari Vasudevan, Visiting Distinguished Fellow at ORF, Kolkata, said that in diamond trade, India ($25 billion) is way ahead of the United States ($5 billion). He asked, considering the huge potential of the diamond industry, why is it still kept under wraps? Prof. Vasudevan said that this book makes a claim that the diamond industry is a crucial aspect of India’s external trade. Then, who are the people behind the trade? He said the state’s relation with the diamond trade needs to be looked into. Chandrani Gupta, Joint Director, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of India, argued that there is a huge gap in India’s diamond trade as indirect trade far exceeds direct trade. India imports rough diamonds from overseas, cuts and polishes them and exports them. The country features among the top countries in indirect trade whereas it fails to make a mark in direct trade. For developing trade surplus in diamond trade, direct trade needs to be boosted, Gupta said.
This event report is prepared by Mihir Bhonsale, Junior Fellow, ORF Kolkata with inputs from Roshan Saha, Research Assistant, ORF Kolkata.
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