Surat’s diamond industry fears that its worst nightmare will come true. Ahead of the season, the hustle and bustle of the business is missing and an uneasy calm prevails on the streets of the diamond market. Many fear jobless workers may take the extreme step of committing suicide.

Sensing the growing restlessness and anxiety among workers and small traders, who are rendered jobless by the worst slowdown in more than a decade, the Gujarat Chapter of the Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC), in partnership with trade body Surat Diamond Association (SDA) and workers’ body Ratna Kalakar Vikas Sangh, has convened a motivational workshop for workers.

Titled ‘Abhay - Your Existence is a Blessing for Your Family’, the workshop looks to build positivity and overcome the feeling of helplessness among workers and prevent them from taking the extreme step.

“The diamond sector is passing though a tough time with weakness in the global market and slowdown in Indian economy. It is facing big challenges. Amid all these, diamond workers shouldn’t lose hope and sink into despair. To keep their morale up and not fall prey to rumours about job losses, we have taken an initiative to spread positivity and optimism,” Dinesh Navadia, Regional Chairman, GJEPC, said.

Facing severe slowdown in the jewellery and diamond sector, many diamond firms have laid off additional workers. As per a trade estimate, more than one lakh workers have lost their jobs since December last year. The lay offs continue as there are feeble chances of revival in demand as the festival season too has failed to lift the mood.

While smaller units have either shut shop or laid off employees to pare the extra financial burden, the bigger units have not reduced the workforce, but cut down the shift timings thereby causing a dent in the earnings of workers.

The overall diamond demand is estimated to be down by about 30 per cent from last year’s demand. The Surat diamond industry employs about seven lakh directly with an annual turnover of close to ₹1 lakh crore.

Some attributed the current plight to the demonetisation in 2016, some blamed it on GST roll-out and the hike in import duty of gold, while some others hold global factors responsible for the slump.