EC vigilance makes life difficult for jewellery, wholesale markets in TN

T E Raja Simhan Chennai | Updated on March 28, 2019

Ritchie Street, a major electronic market in Chennai, has seen less consumers as surveillance by the EC intensified   -  Bijoy Ghosh

Tamil Nadu continues to live up to its notoriety as a State that pioneered the cash-for-vote practice. Seizure of cash by the Election Commission of India (ECI) in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections in the State is four times more than its nearest rival Uttar Pradesh. As of March 25, of the total of ₹143.47 crore seized across the country, ₹36.6 crore was from Tamil Nadu, followed by Uttar Pradesh (₹8.26 crore), and West Bengal (₹6.43 crore), according data released by the ECI.

The State has been subjected to higher surveillance to ensure there is no repeat of cash-for-vote strategy as was allegedly adopted recently in RK Nagar in Chennai, and in the past in Thirumangalam byelection (2009) and Sathankulam byelection (2003). The ECI has ensured that its flying squads across the State carry out random checks of vehicles, including two-wheelers.

This has affected consumers and cash-based businesses in certain sectors, for instance in jewellery, electronics and wholesale markets such as Koyambedu and Broadway in Chennai, and those in other parts of the State.

Crunch in jewellery sales

Despite it being the wedding season, jewellery stores are seeing poor footfalls due to restrictions in carrying cash.

Jewellery sales have dropped by 35-40 per cent ever since the model code of conduct came into effect, said N Anantha Padmanaban, Managing Director of NAC Jewellers and Chairman of the All India Gem and Jewellery Domestic Council. “We have approached the Chief Election Officer (CEO) to stop harassing of genuine jewellery buyers,” he told BusinessLine.

A person who has saved ₹5 lakh over a period of time to buy jewellery will not be able to show the source of cash. Nearly 60 per cent of jewellery purchase happens through cash transactions, he added.

It is not just the consumers who are affected. Even if the goods are accompanied by proper documents that are in accordance with the provisions of the Goods and Services Tax Act, officials are handing over the consignment to the Income Tax Department for further investigation, the Council told the CEO.

Jithendra Vummidi, Managing Partner, Vummidi Bangaru Jewellers, said harassment by officials has been detrimental to all businesses.

Futile exercise

A flying squad at the entrance of Ritchie Street in Chennai, India’s largest electronics bazaar, is constantly monitoring movement of people. Sales are down by 60-65 per cent as people are worried about carrying cash, said B Nimbaram of Shankar Electronics.

R Chandalia, Secretary, Chennai Electronics and Infotech Traders Association, too voiced a similar concern. “Harassment is a major problem,” he said.

But most traders are resigned to face this situation till April 18, when the State goes to polls.

Published on March 28, 2019

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