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Not so bountiful Pongal for Salem silver ornament makers
Pongal, one of the two major festivals when silver ornament manufacturers in Salem see demand at its peak, is just a few weeks away. While the district accounts for over 60 per cent of silver anklets produced in the country, manufacturers, however, seem to be bracing for the worst harvest festival ever as they claim to have not got any orders so far.
“Pongal is just three weeks away but so far, the silver ornament manufacturers have got nil orders. By now, orders should have come as the manufacturer needs some time to make the anklets and ornaments,” said R Senthil Kumar, a silversmith.
For the silver anklet and ornament manufacturers in Salem, Deepavali and Pongal are the two festivals when demand peaks, while orders also pour in during the marriage season.
“The silver ornament manufacturing sector has been in jeopardy ever since the GST (Goods and Services Tax) was implemented by the Union government. Production has been hit severely so much that Deepavali witnessed only 40 per cent of the usual orders, while it has worsened this Pongal season,” said PV Chandrapal, president of Salem Silver Merchants and Manufacturers Association.
While Salem reportedly accounts for over 60 per cent of silver anklets produced in the country, the rings, lamps and others articles too made here are exported to Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and different parts of Tamil Nadu.
Customers prefer silver ornaments from Salem as they are mostly handmade by experienced craftsmen with unique designs, and they also have a longer shelf life than those made in other parts of the country.
To cater to the demand, more than 1,500 silver ornament manufacturing units function in the district, employing over a lakh people. The workforce in the silver ornament industry too grew steadily, from 30,000 three decades ago to around 1.5 lakh people as recorded a few years ago.
However, the situation now is leading to the industry workers to switch over to other jobs owing to lack of work and the closure of units due to poor orders. Currently, there are around one lakh workers in the industry, but they too mull over a shift to other jobs. The silver ornament manufacturers have therefore been demanding to revoke the GST to revive the ailing industry.
“Before 1982, there were only around 25,000 workers involved in manufacturing silver ornaments. Then, the government scrapped the commercial tax, resulting in the mushrooming of numerous cottage industries involved in making silver ornaments.
However, after a GST of 15 per cent (including bullion tax of three per cent and import duty of 12 per cent) was implemented by the Union government two years ago, almost 70 per cent of the units are now facing a threat of closure. We have represented the issue several times, but to no avail so far,” PV Chandrapal said.
With the increasing prices, recent rains and the ongoing protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) in northern States also stated to have severely affected orders coming to the silver manufacturing units in Salem, the ornament manufacturers seek the government to ban online trade in silver ornaments and the creation of special zones and promotion activities to ensure better orders and tide over the present situation.
- 60 per cent of India’s production of silver anklets is met by Salem
- 1,500-odd silver ornament manufacturing units in the district with around one lakh workers achieve the above feat
- 0 orders received so far for Pongal festival when demand is otherwise at its peak, claim Salem silver ornament manufacturers