Anti-simplification stand by vested interests decried

Our Bureau

The use of bottle seals on containers after release by the Customs did not exist in any other port of the country, and rightly, the Kolkata Customs has discontinued the practice.

Kolkata, July 26

A recent procedural simplification introduced by the Custom House, Kolkata, welcomed wholeheartedly by both the trade and Custom House Agents (CHAs), is being opposed by a section of Custom House employees who stand to lose monetarily from the simplification.

The 10-year-old practice of using bottled seal locks on imported containerised cargo at Kolkata port, after release by Customs, has been done away with by the Commissioner of Customs through a recent trade facilitation notice, much to the discomfort of the section of Customs staff who handle these seals and collect a tidy sum from trade. It is learnt that the amount involved annually could be around Rs 1.5 crore.

A bottle seal is a small bottle shaped one-time metal lock used by Customs on containers after the cargo has been cleared. The sealing is done to ensure that no one tampers with the cargo which moves out from Customs area to other part of the port from where it is taken away by the importer.

Briefing newspersons here, Mr I.K. Ghosh, President of the Calcutta Custom House Agents' Association, said such protests by some staff members with vested interests, against the department's welcome move to simplify rules, was most unfortunate.

He said this not only reflected badly on the work culture in the State, but also threatened to derail all the good work being done by the Kolkata port in terms of containerised traffic at the Kolkata Dock System, which recorded a growth of over 16 per cent in 2005-06.

Highly redundant practice

He said the use of bottle seals on containers after release by the Customs did not exist in any other port of the country, and rightly, the Kolkata Customs has discontinued the practice. The trade actually has to fork out cash for these seals, which are provided by Customs, as otherwise the movement of import cargo out of the port premises may be needlessly delayed. Describing such sealing of containers as a highly redundant practice, which only delayed cargo clearance and increase in cost, Mr Ghosh said the simplification brought in severe protests and demonstrations by these sections both inside and outside the Custom House, trying to intimidate and browbeat both Customs officials and the CHAs, and seeking immediate re-introduction of the bottled seals on containers.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated July 27, 2006)
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