Shaken, but Zaveri Bazar jewellers won't shift

Mumbai, July 14 (IANS) A third bomb blast in two decades at Zaveri Bazar - Mumbai's most popular address for gems and jewellery - has left its jewellers and diamond merchants shocked and concerned about business. But they are staying put.

When asked if the merchants would like to move out, most refused.

"What is the point in shifting base? Are other business locations safer," asked Raju Solanki, a gold jeweller whose 60-year-old shop is barely 200 metres from the blast site.

The posh south Mumbai jewellery market Wednesday evening came under terror attack for the third time in 18 years. It was one of the three serial blasts Wednesday evening to rock Mumbai - the others having occurred in Dadar in south-central Mumbai and Opera House in south Mumbai, killing at least 17 and injuring 131.

Several merchants, however, expressed deep concern as businesses will be hit owing to the temporary closing down of more than 10,000 shops, including tiny diamond polishing units, post blast.

"My shop is hardly half-a-minute away from the spot of the blast and now I will have to keep it closed as the entire lane has been cordoned off," Mohanlal Seth told IANS.

"Moreover, friends and relative are pressurising me to shift my business elsewhere. But it is not as easy. There is no assurance of safety elsewhere either," he added.

Mumbai's Zaveri Bazar was first targeted March 12, 1993, when 13 serial blasts across the city killed 257 people and injured over 700 others.

The second strike was on Aug 25, 2003 when twin blasts - one at the Gateway of India and the other at Zaveri Bazar - killed 54 people and injured another 244.

The congested Zaveri Bazar has around 50,000 small and big shops and small diamond polishing units, including bullion market, in its narrow, labyrinthine lanes spread across 10 km.

Kumar Jain, vice president of the Mumbai Jewellers' Association, also expressed concern over the loss in the business that might follow.

"If attacks like these continue, skilled labour will move back to their own regions and Mumbai's economy will take a hit," he said.

"But it is equally worrisome for those who have had their businesses here for many decades. For them, it is practically impossible to shift base."

Agreed Pradeep Solanki, another jeweller whose shop is in the lane next to where the blast took place. "Where, if not here? It is childish to even think of shifting base. Which other place is safe?" he asked.

Solanki said time and again the jewellers' association has appealed to police and the state government to address their concerns at haphazard parking and illegal hawking in the area, but these have fallen on deaf ears.

"People park in front of our shops in double lines. It becomes all the more congested. After the 1993 blast, this was taken care of, but now it is back to square one," Solanki said.

"But this is not a permanent solution. There has to be a long term solution to this," he added.

Besides Zaveri Bazar, the blast at Opera House, near Charni Road station, took place in a building where many diamond and gold jewellery firms are located, and the third near Kabutarkhana in Dadar West.


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