Indian jeweler and watch maker Titan Industries has gotten an approval from the federal government to directly import gold for domestic sales, as the country's bullion traders and jewelers protests' entered their 17th day on Monday.
"We have agreed in principle to allow Titan to import gold on its own. The company will need to get a licence from us as gold is a restricted commodity," said Anup K. Pujari, director-general of foreign trade.
The latest development is India's move to tame its bullion traders and jewelers who have staged a nationwide strike in response to the proposed hike in import duty on gold bars, coins and platinum in March to 4 per cent from 2 per cent, since the tax had already been doubled in January. New Delhi issued the proposal in efforts to increase revenue streams, dissuade gold buying as well as monitor its current-account deficit.
Mr Pujari said allowing Titan Industries to directly import gold will allow bankers or state-run agencies to evade nominal charges for processing gold. Moreover, the bigger benefit will be the removal of procedural hassles, Mr Pujari noted.
The Directorate General of Foreign Trade, Mr Pujari said, is also considering permitting other Indian private companies to import gold directly.
But retailers were not appeased of the latest measure. "It only saves some nominal charges," said Rakesh Saraf, a spokesman for protesting retailers, told the Wall Street Journal. They want a rollback of the tax increase.
However, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee last week had ruled out a rollback of the import tax. What federal government can consider, he said, is to adjust the excise tax on unbranded jewelry.
Customers, meanwhile, urged both government and bullion traders and jewelers to settle their differences at the soonest time possible. The massive protest had paralysed the Indian market, hurtling brides into panic buying in anticipation of the peak wedding season in April.
"Like so many others, I wanted to buy gold on the auspicious occasion of Gudi Padwa, but could not. In view of the stir prolonging, how does someone getting married buy ornaments? Moreover, even if they do manage to buy gold from somewhere, they may end paying more than the actual rate," S Srinivasan, a Ghatkopar resident, told the india Daily News Analysis.