One worker killed as security guards attack Indian diamond workers strike

Violence rocked India's diamond capital Gujarat last Sunday as at least 40,000 angry workers who have been demanding better pay for a while, attacked small factories and homes of their owners.

Submitted by Ed on July 9, 2008

The security guards hit back and one person died while others were injured in the firing. Workers are demanding a 20 per cent raise. Currently, they are paid anywhere between 15-25 Rupees per diamond which they say is inadequate in these times of skyrocketing prices.

At least 45 workers were injured in the stampede that followed the firing, stone throwing and police lathi charge. Some security guards and staff of the management were injured in the stone-throwing.

The day after the diamond polisher was killed during protests in Bhavnagar, police arrangements were beefed up in Varachha, Katargam and Kapodara areas of Surat on Monday. Heavy police deployments were made at Varachha and Kapodara areas along with the battalions of the State Reserve Police (SRP), at various other sensitive places. The police carried out patrolling in different areas under the supervision of senior police officials.

Sources in the Surat Diamond Association said that the owner of the Sutaria Diamond factory, situated at Kohinoor Society in Varachha, had dismissed 160 workers after they demanded 20 per cent hike in their wages. In Navsari, tension prevailed during the day, over the issue of a 20 per cent hike in the wages of diamond workers. Over 500 workers of Godhani Diamonds came out of the factory and raised slogans against its owner Shantilal Godani, in the Jalalpore area.

Thousands of workers at units in Gujarat cut and polish the raw materials until they are priceless jewels which are then exported to the US at huge profits. But workers say they are paid very little and the pay structure is inconsistent. Some get paid Rs 25 per diamond while others get just Rs 15 and wages have not been revised in years, despite the inflation.

The agitation by the diamond cutting workers have spread to Rajkot, Junagadh, Palanpur and other areas in the State. In a bid to break the impasse, the Surat Diamond Industries Association announced its decision to implement a 20 per cent hike in the wages with immediate effect.