India women seek limit on wedding gold

2014-01-08 19:26

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Mumbai - The women's commission of India's Kerala state is seeking to limit the amount of gold given at weddings to no more than 80g to reduce the burden on families and help ease India's trade deficit.

Most Indians see gifts of gold, mostly jewellery, from the bride's family to the groom as auspicious for a marriage, helping to ensure financial security.

But grooms have been seeking increasing amounts of gold as rising duties and restrictions on imports have led to a shortage in India, the world's second-largest gold consumer after China.

"The tendency among our parents [has become] to sell residential property to buy gold for marriages and go for rented houses," KC Rosakutty, chairperson of the Kerala Women's Commission told Reuters.

"This is creating a lot of trouble for families."

The state of Kerala now uses up to 400g of gold per wedding, or 80 tons per year - about a tenth of India's total demand in 2012.

The commission has sought a meeting with Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy to press for a limit on gold gifts at 80g, which would cost about $3 600. Chandy could not immediately be reached for comment.

The proposal is unlikely to find any takers in political circles ahead of elections due by May, experts said.

Culturally deep-rooted

"Gold is more of a culturally deep-rooted thing, and this would find resistance among women themselves," said Rammohan Kamath, secretary of the Calicut Bullion Dealers Association in Kerala.

"This will all remain on paper. Even for political parties, the gold jewellery business is a big money spinner for elections," Kamath said, adding that implementing the cap would be difficult anyway.

If the proposal were to be accepted, it would be good news for Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram. Apart from raising gold import duties to a record 10% last year, he has also been vocal about the need to end Indians' fascination with gold.

Bullion prices have risen by 120 times since 1972 to about $467 per 10g currently, data from the Reserve Bank of India showed.

Meanwhile, India's gold imports have dropped by more than 50%in recent months from previous average levels of about 60 tons per month.

Imports fell to 21 tons in November from a record of 162 tons in May, and the total for 2014 is expected to drop to around 500 to 550 tons, according to trade body All India Gems and Jewellery Trade Federation. 

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