Mangalore: Export Certificate - 'Passport' to Trouble at Airport
Daijiworld Media Network - Mangalore
Mangalore, Jul 10: Ever since international flights were allowed to land at Bajpe airport, passengers flying to and fro have been facing problems one after the other. Air India Express flight itself has been a major trouble maker in terms of inconsistent schedules, price wars, attitude of ground and crew staff, missing luggage, diverting flights to other cities and many other common problems. On the other hand, one cannot deny the huge benefits gained by the passengers of the coastal region, whose travel time has been reduced drastically due to the direct flight facility.
The other problem faced by the passengers is from the customs authorities. 'Harassment' by the custom authorities has been a common complaint, but this has become part and parcel in any airport in India, hence, one cannot point out only Mangalore.
But the recent problems faced by the Gulf-bound passengers are quite serious, and need to be addressed widely. For the past 3-4 weeks, Daijiworld offices in Mangalore as well as Dubai have flooded with complaints of 'harassment' by customs officials at the airport.
Until recently a man or a woman could walk out from the customs wearing sizable articles of jewellery. But all of a sudden, without public notice or media announcement, Mangalore customs officials are stopping women wearing jewellery (mostly gold) worth more than Rs 20,000 and men with jewellery worth over Rs 10,000. Even if one wears the gold, one is subject to pay the customs duty!
Hence, if you are stopped by the customs for wearing gold above the specified limits, don't be surprised!
When Daijiworld discussed this problem with customs officials, P A Mohammed, superintendent of customs, Mangalore airport, who visited Daijiworld office to explain the customs rules and requested us to educate passengers through this website, said that passengers must possess 'export certificate' for their gold and other valuables to avoid any hassles. When passengers leave from Mangalore, it is advisable to declare the gold and obtain the export certificate, or gold value must be certified by an authorized jewellery in Mangalore or elsewhere. "One such authorized jeweller who can value the gold jewellery is Canara Jewelers in Mangalore,” he added.
"If they produce the same certificate while returning from a foreign country, they can walk out without any hassles. If there is no export certificate available with the passengers, then a tariff value of $ 507 per 10 grams will be levied when the gold jewellery is brought back on arrival," he said.
"Due to constraints of time and facility, it is difficult for the customs authority at the airport to evaluate the value of the jewellery studded with diamonds and precious stones. To ease the problem, one can present their jewellery to customs at least 24 hours in advance. As an alternate way, they can also present documents like purchase invoice/ valuation certificate issued by government approved authorized jeweller for obtaining export certificate."
Is this a New Rule ?
Daijiworld tried to learn whether this process is newly implemented, but no accurate answer is available with any of the officials. When Daijiworld tried to seek more information on this issue and tried to contact the assistant commissioner, there was no response.
Now, Daijiworld has decided to file for an RTI to procure documents explaining when such a rule was brought into effect, and other nitty gritty in connection to the rules.
In the coming days, passengers may inform if the rule is strictly implemented. But visiting the recommended jewellery unit in Mangalore and getting the certificate is impossible, as there are hundreds of passengers staying away from Mangalore who choose to fly from its airport.
There is another point to be mentioned here. What happens to those who already travelled last year or even before - when they arrive in Mangalore, how will they be treated? Where can they get tehe xport certificate? Why have the customs authorities woken up only now? Why can't they educate every passenger when he or she departs from Mangalore?
Will Export Certificate Encourages Corruption?
As of now, the major complaint among most of the passengers is about the rude attitude and behaviour of customs officials at the Airport. "First they give us a scare by quoting a big amount as customs duty, and then they negotiate for cash," this is the common complaint.
Below is a letter from the husband of a passenger, who, with her two little kids faced untold harassment at Mangalore airport. The letter has been reproduced briefly for the benefit of the readers as well as the higher customs authorities.
Letter dated, July 8, 2012:
Last week my wife along with my children travelled to Mangalore on vacation. Since she is traveling alone with the children, a direct ticket was booked with Air India Express.
My wife was wearing a necklace and four bangles and a wedding ring and my daughter was wearing a small necklace.
The customs officer on duty stopped her and valued the gold at around Rs 2 lac (I would have been happier to take Rs 2 lac and hand over all the items to that officer). He asked her to pay a duty of Rs 40,000. Since I sensed this gimmick from the customs I told her not to pay anything and to tell them that she does not have that much of money. He came down to Rs 30,000, then to Rs 25,000, down to Rs 20,000 and to Rs 15,000 and finally Rs 10,000.
By that time all the passengers were out and it was too late. My wife called me again to inform the status and also informed me that the customs officer had held them and one more family back, while the whole airport was empty.
Again I told her to tell the officer that she did not have that much money (and in reality too she was not carrying much cash). The customs officer did not oblige to her request to enter the items in Passport so that we could take it back.
Finally, the officer came down to Rs 5,000, and since it was already dark outside, the children were tired and hungry, and with 70 km to travel home, she paid Rs 5,000 to the officer and came out after about 50 minutes ordeal with the customs officials. She reached home at 12.30 am.
Now, although we made the offence of paying a bribe, not only us but anybody would be happy to settle for Rs 5,000 instead of Rs 40,000. Passengers are in a confusion, specially with regard to duty on gold. How much gold can a person wear? What is the permissible limit ? How is the duty calculated? Can competent custom authorities listen to my plea?
Gold and Women
No doubt gold is one of most fascinating articles of jewllery for any woman. Any woman or a girl child wears at least a chain or mangalsutra, a few bangles, rings, earrings, etc. Women who travel from abroad wear minimum gold worth between Rs 60,000 to Rs 1,00,000. Does that mean every passenger will end up paying Rs 40,000 - 50,000? or Rs 5,000 as bribe?
Is this Rule for Mangalore only ?
There is still a question whether this 'Export Certificate' process is only for Mangalore passengers. When daijiworld contacted a couple of Gulf-bound passengers who arrived via Bangalore airport, they said "There was no such harassment in Bangalore airport. We passed the checkings without any trouble, and no one at the customs bothered to ask or check us on how much jewellery or gold we were wearing."
However, Mangalore custom officials say this rule is applicable to all international airports in India.
As maximum number of passengers from the Gulf arrive in Mangalore during this season (June - July - August) due to summer vacation in the Gulf, the 'export certificate' problem might cause much inconvenience to both the customs as well as the passengers.
Hence, it is advisable for the authorities concerned to come up with a solution so that passengers have smooth sailing in Mangalore. If this continues, there is a danger that passengers may give the airport a skip, especially if the money demanded by the customs is not a small amount!
Those who have faced genuine problems are welcome to share their experiences, both good and bad, with daijiworld readers. The entire article along with readers' feedback will be forwarded to higher customs authorities in Mangalore, Bangalore and New Delhi and the ministries concerned.