Over 4,000 jewellery shops and traders including goldsmiths, pawn brokers, those involved in gold polishing units all took part in the bandh

The normally busy streets of T.Nagar, Park Town and Purasawalkam wore a deserted look on Wednesday as most jewellery shops were closed to protest the Union budget announcement to levy excise duty on unbranded gold ornaments.

A few large jewellery shops on Usman Road, T.Nagar, however were open, and did brisk business. Some of them did not participate in the strike saying that it was called at short notice.

Jewellery associations had called for a seven-day State-wide bandh until April 10 demanding a rollback of several announcements, including the increase in customs duty and tax collection at source from customers who purchase gold worth above Rs.2 lakh.

Besides over 4,000 jewellery shops in and around the city, every section of traders, including goldsmiths, pawn brokers, those involved in gold polishing units and those running hallmarking centres also took part in the bandh, according to jewellers' associations.

K. Thyagarajan, secretary of the Park Town Gold, Silver Workers Welfare Association, said the manufacturing of gold ornaments involved many stages such as polishing and hallmarking. “It is not possible to carry vouchers every time we take the jewellery out of the manufacturing unit. Many goldsmiths do not have the expertise to maintain accounts and it would add to their expenditure,” Thyagarajan said.

Customers also lost out on an opportunity to buy gold at a lower rate as most shops remained closed and those that were open, sold at old rates. According to Jayanthilal Challani, president of the Madras Jewellers' and Diamond Merchants Association, on Wednesday, one gram of 22-carat gold was priced at about Rs. 50 less than the previous day's rate of Rs. 2,668.

“We did not update the price. In Chennai alone, the business loss could be Rs.200 crore due to the strike. We are planning to meet the Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Friday to resolve the issue,” he said.

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