New Delhi, Oct. 5: Narendra Modi today said that if India had to regain its status as the sone ki chidiya (mythical golden bird) of yore, the Centre must revisit its policy on gold.
It must look at the yellow metal not just in terms of economics but as “a way of life and a social order” for Indians, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate argued.
Modi’s remarks came at the first India International Bullion Summit, hosted by the Bombay Bullion Association in Mumbai, which he addressed through a video link.
The Gujarat chief minister accused the UPA government of singling out gold as the villain for the economic mess-up. He referred to the Centre’s decision last month to hike the import duty on gold jewellery from 10 to 15 per cent, higher than the levy on raw gold import.
“It’s an anti-people decision because the Centre does not understand certain facts. Everyone agrees that exports should be more and imports should be less. But identify those sectors that need attention instead of singling out gold as the villain,” he said.
“There’s a huge market for machine-made jewellery but simultaneously, there is also a big demand the world over for handcrafted jewellery. Just as people are ready to pay more for organic vegetables, grains, etc, so too there’s a big market for handmade jewellery.”
Modi’s remarks suggested he was courting the large community of goldsmiths or sonars, who are counted among the backward castes.
“I regret to say that those gathered here are only interested in marketing machine-made jewellery. Lakhs of our goldsmiths need markets and you should render a big service to them,” Modi said.
“If goldsmithery becomes a centre of economic activity and if gold jewellery exports get a fillip, then the rupee will become stronger vis-à-vis foreign currencies on its own.”
Modi went so far as to argue that the states could no longer hope to progress with the Centre’s help and, therefore, should formulate their own export policies.
“The states that do the maximum export promotion should be incentivised through central grants,” he said.
Modi claimed the import duty increase was threatening to revive the “gold mafia”. He said that since the hike came into force, there had been numerous seizures of contraband gold at the country’s airports.