Customs officials are not clearing imported cargo at the cargo terminal up at the Chennai airport cargo. They are protesting against the CBI action against three customs officials in a pharmaceutical drug import cars. They were taken away for questioning.
The pile up of packages and documents total 3000. The protest has been going on for the past five days. Many important parts and equipment are stuck in the cargo warehouse. There are 250 Customs officials. The urgency makes the importers use the air route and the delay makes it unviable and defeats the purpose, say importers.
Apart from the delay, the importer after 72 hours of the arrival has to pay Rs 3 for each kg. On an average, Rs 20 lakh per day is being paid by cargo agents as demurrage.
Apart from the present protest, the cargo agents say they normally face delays due to shortage of customs officers. 40% of the staff vacancies are not filled. The new officers posted in the cargo complex are not well versed with the import rules. On an average, 1,000 documents are to be cleared every day whereas only 600 are cleared.
The usual clearance time is two to three days and it now goes up to a week. This makes the import through air meaningless.
Car-makers like Nissan, Ford and Hyundai are the major importers. The next in line are HP, Dell, IBM and Nokia as well as electronic parts which form fifth of the imports.
Chennai-based industry bodies like Southern India Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Madras Chamber of Commerce and Industry have petitioned the Union Revenue Secretary to sort out the problem.
Rampant corruption in customs at the cargo clearing has come up. The Directorate of revenue intelligence chief who monitors the activities of customs officials and looks into corruption was himself caught by CBI sleuths while taking bribe. He has retired but is still facing a case in CBI court. He alleged that his honest methods irked the cargo agents lobby who framed him.