Women may appear to like tiny things but you may never hear any one of them say, “Honey, don’t you think this diamond is way too big?” The influence of diamonds over women is unshakeable. But now, the Indian diamond industry fears that an unprecedented force has come.
On December 8, Blood Diamonds starring Leonardo DiCaprio will be released across the world. It is set in the 1990s against the backdrop of a civil war in Sierra Leone, The story of Danny Archer (Leonardo), a South African mercenary and Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou), a Mende fisherman, portrays how diamonds mined in such areas sponsor rebellions of unthinkable brutality. It is for this reason that the precious stones, also called blood diamonds, from some African countries like Sierra Leone are banned in the international market. Some slip through though. It is feared that many women, after seeing the film, may be repulsed by the idea of wearing a diamond that funds so much atrocity.
The Indian diamond industry processes roughly 90% of the world’s diamonds. It is concerned that sales to western countries may slow down as conscientious persons would stop buying diamonds fearing that they are of dubious origins. “As the world’s largest diamond processing nation, we should be concerned that such a movie might send a wrong message to buyers. We need to climb on rooftops and counter this movie and the propaganda in the film,” says Bakul Mehta, former chairman of the Gem and Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC).
India has a system in place to ensure blood diamonds do not find their way in. All the diamonds that come into India need to be accompanied by an international certification system set up in 2003 called the Kimberley Process (KP). When they move from location to location, they are given additional identifications.
The diamond industry says that the DiCaprio movie does not convey this filtering process. Without the KP process, it is difficult to trace the diamonds’ origins. “A diamond is a diamond. It is just not possible to know, in ordinary circumstances, where it came from. It is possible only if a particular region has exceptional geographical elements that are very distinctive,” says industry veteran Vinod Kuriyan.
A report, ‘Killing Kimberley? Conflict Diamonds and Paper Tigers’, by Partnership Africa Canada (PAC), an NGO, states that although the Kimberley Process “has been very successful, some recent events have highlighted the need for governments to urgently address some important issues, such as allegations that rough diamonds are being smuggled from Ivory Coast, a country subject to a UN Security Council Resolution banning the export of diamonds into neighboring countries”.
According to Kuriyan, the problem also is that one can easily walk with diamonds from a conflict area, like Ivory Coast, to a neighbouring country that legitimately deals in diamonds and claim that the diamond was recovered there.
Then there is also an attempt to link the blood diamond issue by interested quarters to what it calls ‘Slave Child Labour in India’. Sanjay Kothari, GJEPC chairman, has rubbished such charges pointing out to a 2003 report by A F Ferguson & Co that reveals the child labour levels in the Indian diamond processing industry had dropped to a near negligible figure of 0.53% between 1998 and 2003.
Blood Diamonds comes close on the heels of rapper Kanye West’s song Diamonds from Sierra Leone which won a Grammy Award in 2006 (the song was scathing about conflict diamonds).
However, leading Indian diamond merchants are hopeful that the impact of the film will be limited in the international market. “I am sure, that the audience abroad will realise that the film is about the era where KP was not in existence. While we appreciate the social message that it is trying to advocate, it would have been nice if the prevailing circumstances like KP certification were also included,” says Kothari.Â TNN