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New Delhi: Jewellers across India are set to go on a strike on 23 August to protest against the hallmarking process mandated by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) that they say has been “arbitrarily implemented".

The one-day strike is being called by the National Task Force on Hallmarking, formed by 350 associations and federations representing the gems and jewellery industry pan-India. Members of the task force said that while they welcome hallmarking, the process is tedious.

Gold hallmarking had become mandatory from 16 June. It was implemented in 256 districts of India in the first phase and is applicable to jewellers with an annual turnover above 40 lakh.

The principal objective of hallmarking is to protect the public against adulteration and to obligate manufacturers to maintain legal standards of fineness. Jewellers selling non-certified products are to face fines from September.

Jewellers are dealing with a bottleneck in the process of hallmarking as it can take anywhere between five to ten days to get pieces hallmarked through certifying centres. India also has few hallmarking centres, and as a result, the process has become time-consuming.

“Currently the new marking system i.e., Hallmarking Unique ID (HUID) is taking almost 5 to 10 days to hallmark the products, resulting into complete bottleneck and the industry is on standstill. Also, to add, HUID is not fool proof and there have been lots of issues such as double HUID on same piece, same HUID on multiple jewellery etc. and these are already brought to notice of BIS," said Dinesh Jain, member National Task Force on Hallmarking and director Gem & Jewellery Skill Council of India.

Jain said “tonnes" of jewellery is lying idle due to delays in the existing hallmarking process.

The hallmarking entails a Hallmarking Unique ID (HUID) which is a unique code given to every piece of jewellery at the time of hallmarking

“The new HUID is a 6-digit code, which BIS feels will improve gold purity, but BIS cannot prove even one element of how it can improve the purity, apart from it being just a tracking mechanism. The consumer wants perfect quality of gold jewellery which we are happy to deliver. The new process has been made a 'destructive process' that damages our jewellery being hallmarked," said Ashok Minawala, member of the National Task Force on Hallmarking and past chairman, All India Gem and Jewellery Domestic Council.

India—a key consumer of gold—manufacturers 10-12 crore pieces of jewellery annually.

“In addition, an existing stock of almost 6 to 7 crore pieces are yet to be hallmarked. This takes the total count of pieces to be hallmarked in a year to almost 16 to 18 crore pieces. At the current speed and capacity of hallmarking centres which is about 2,00,000 pieces a day it could take three to four years to mark this years’ production," said members of the task force.

The task force has said hallmarking should be based on point of sale as proposed by jewellers, while all other applications of storage, display, transit, exhibit to sale, manufacture, etc. be removed from the BIS Act and Regulation.

Any penal consequences on the jeweller will eventually result in winding up of businesses in fear, said members of the task force.

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