A city-based organisation wants the Maharashtra government to set up an international exhibition centre here and implement skill development programmes for jewellery workers to safeguard their welfare.

Jewel Makers Welfare Association (JMWA), working for the betterment of goldsmiths and the jewel making workforce, alleged that the number of goldsmiths has dwindled and their businesses adversely affected with the successive governments being apathetic towards them.

Citing the figures of The Gem and Jewellery Export Promotion Council, JMWA’s founder member Sanjay Shah said, “Gold jewellery exports have dropped by 25.47 per cent in the first five months of current fiscal year. The prime reason is that the workforce engaged in the profession has been totally marginalised by the policy makers.”

“Despite an abundance of work force in India, the country is far behind Italy, Thailand, Hong kong, China and Malaysia because the government has been apathetic towards this working class,” Shah alleged.

He was speaking at an exhibition organised here yesterday to generate funds for improving the welfare of workers by providing them good machines for work, medical aids, educational support for them and their families.

Former Union minister and Congress leader Milind Deora, who attended the exhibition, said that the goldsmiths were facing the heat due to demonetisation.

“The association’s demand to build an exhibition centre is a welcome suggestion and I will appeal to Chief Minister (Devendra) Fadnavis to support the initiative. The industry is going through a very difficult time because of demonetisation and the government must support it.”

JMWA member Neelesh Zaveri said that the number of goldsmiths has gone down from nine lakh in last five years to four lakh now. “Due to lack of proper skill sets, the workers are lagging behind international competitors,” he said.

“Therefore, we have demanded the Maharashtra government to set up an exhibition centre in the city and launch skill development programmes,” Zaveri added.