A major scandal has been unearthed with the seizure of 72 weighing machines used by jewellers and goldsmiths across Goa in surprise checks by inspectors of the legal metrology department. The machines were found to be unverified, which made it open for manipulation. The jewellers and goldsmiths failed to produce verification certificates as they had none. Men and women who bought ornaments from them must have lost in terms of precious metal and money every time they made their purchase. The legal metrology department should come out with its findings and let the people know how the seized machines were fiddled by jewellers and goldsmiths to manipulate readings if they were by all. The department should reveal the names of such jewellers and goldsmiths in order to warn the common people. The action by the officials of the legal metrology department came on the direction of Minister for Legal Metrology Vinod Palyekar, probably after someone brought to his notice the illegalities being committed by jewellers andgoldsmiths.
Cases have been unearthed about gold ornaments pledged as security for obtaining loans from banks not being found genuinely gold. Why is the number of cases of fake gold being pledged to banks to obtain loans rising? It has been found that fake gold was ‘certified’ as genuine by goldsmiths who were on the panels of official appraisers. There have also been cases of gold ornaments purchased from a jewellery shop being valued at two-thirds or half their price if sold or exchanged with another jeweller or for obtaining loans, which again raises questions over the genuineness of the gold sold to them. It appears that combinations of factors were being used by jewellers and goldsmiths to cheat common people as well as banks. While the government has taken steps to verify genuineness of the weighing instruments through a special drive conducted across the state, there is also need to check the quality of gold ornaments. The drives to check quality have to be regular and all those found to have violated the set standards should be dealt with strongly as per the law so as to prevent people from being duped by unscrupulous jewellers.
More than a hundred people have been arrested or accused of pledging fake gold ornaments to banks over the last five years. It suggests that a well-organised system is operating in the state to cheat banks with active connivance of unscrupulous goldsmiths. Their modus operandi could have inter-state links. The state police would have to conduct a thorough probe into the cases that have been reported and take them to a logical end. Not much is known about the progress made in the cases registered in connection with loans against fake gold. People should be made aware through media about it so they are not conned. The appraisers who have certified fake ornaments as genuine should be identified, exposed and prosecuted for exemplary punishment. There could be many more people who have pledged fake gold to banks to take loans which they do not repay. The banks would have to make a double check of the genuineness of all loan accounts against gold ornaments pledged to them which have turned into non-performing assets. They need to report the cases to police for investigation.
Gold remains a cherished valuable for the rich and poor Goans alike. During festivals and weddings there are several times more purchases of gold than on ordinary days. People go to jewellers and goldsmiths with the trust that their weighing machines and instruments are standard and precise. Ordinary people do not have any means to check if the machines and instruments are verified or unverified. Even a tiny and slight manipulation in the weights could mean an illegal extra earning for the jeweller and goldsmith in terms of hundreds and thousands of rupees. The figure could be in lakhs in big jewellery shops in a day. Rather than waiting for complaints, the legal metrology department should make checks regular at the jewellers’ and goldsmiths’. The 72 weighing instruments that have been seized should be thoroughly checked. Neither Minister Palyekar nor the officials of the department should drop the cases or play it down under pressure from any quarters. The Goan people have a right to know who were using manipulated machines and for how long, so that they can be given justice. People deserve compensation from the weight-manipulating jewellers and goldsmiths for the losses they might have suffered at their hands.