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‘Worst is When They Sell Mangalsutra’: Desperate Indians Sell Family Gold to Survive Covid Cash Crunch

In Mumbai’s jewelry bazaar, Kavita Jogani gingerly locations her marriage ceremony bangles on the shopkeeper’s scales, one of many hundreds of Indians parting with their most cherished asset — gold.

It was not a straightforward choice — Jogani was determined after her garment enterprise took a extreme hit previously 12 months and a half with a number of coronavirus lockdowns, making it troublesome to pay store payments and the salaries of her 15 staff.

The headline progress numbers recommend Asia’s third-largest financial system is rebounding from the financial disaster unleashed by Covid-19, however there isn’t any finish but to the monetary ache for a lot of Indians.

“I don’t have every other choice than promoting the gold,” mentioned Jogani as she waited nervously for the store proprietor to make her a suggestion. “I purchased these bangles earlier than my marriage ceremony 23 years in the past,” the 45-year-old instructed AFP.

Enterprise closures and job losses pushed greater than 230 million Indians into poverty previously 12 months, based on a examine by Azim Premji College, leaving many struggling to pay hire, college charges and hospital payments.

Their difficulties have been compounded in current weeks by hovering costs for electrical energy, gas and different objects.

Determined for money, many households and small companies have been placing up gold jewelry — their final resort — as collateral to safe short-term loans to tide them over.

Banks disbursed “loans towards gold jewelry” price 4.71 trillion rupees ($64 billion) within the first eight months of 2021, a whopping 74 p.c bounce year-on-year, central financial institution knowledge confirmed.

And lots of of those loans have gone bitter with debtors unable to maintain up with repayments, leaving lenders to public sale off the gold. Newspapers have been flooded with notices for such gross sales.

‘You begin crying’

Gold has immense monetary and cultural significance in India — it’s thought of important at weddings, birthdays and non secular ceremonies, and in addition seen as a protected asset that may be transferred from one technology to the following. 

Indians purchased 315.9 tonnes of gold-use jewelry in 2020, virtually as a lot because the Americas, Europe and the Center East mixed, based on the World Gold Council. Solely China purchased extra.

Indian households are estimated to be sitting on 24,000 tons — price $1.5 trillion — in cash, bars and jewelry.

“It’s the solely social safety for the lady or any family as a result of there isn’t any such social safety programme from the federal government,” mentioned Dinesh Jain, director on the All India Gem and Jewelry Home Council.

“Gold is like liquid money,” he instructed AFP. “You encash it in at any time of the day and night time.”

Kumar Jain, 63, whose household has run a store in Mumbai’s historic Zaveri Bazaar for 106 years, says he has by no means seen so many individuals coming to promote. “It wasn’t like this earlier than the pandemic,” he instructed AFP.

Jain says his prospects — predominantly ladies — have offered an unlimited array of private jewelry in current months together with gold bangles, rings, necklaces and earrings. “The worst half is after they promote their ‘mangalsutra’,” he mentioned.

That necklace “is an indication of a married girl. You begin crying when she takes off the ‘mangalsutra’ from her neck and says, ‘Give me cash for this’. That’s the worst state of affairs.”

Jogani, the garment enterprise proprietor in Mumbai, was capable of finding some respiration area by promoting a few of her jewelry.

In trade for her eight bangles, a small necklace and some rings, she acquired 200,000 rupees ($2,695) in money.

“Earlier, I might neglect this stuff when my mom used to inform me that ‘you need to save in gold’,” Jogani mentioned. “However now I… know. Everybody ought to save in gold.”

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