Pankaj Upadhyay

Massive backlog of Chinese imports at Mumbai airport, traders cry foul

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The recent border skirmish with China and the consequent measures to fight with Beijing on economic grounds has resulted in a backlog of imports at the Mumbai International Airport. This comes even as traders and various associations are crying foul over delayed consignments.

“Presently. about 70 per cent of Indian import consignments are checked through the automated route. However, since 23 June any consignment coming from China is being subjected to 100 per cent manual checks. The same is true for Mumbai airport. The 100 per cent examination is a huge task for the customs department,” a source told India Today.

According to sources, every mobile phone, every consignment at the Mumbai airport is being checked, resulting in a huge backlog to be cleared.

“Cannot put an estimate to the volume of consignment stuck but it is massive,” the source added.

High-tension between India and China continues to hog headlines as Indians have called for a complete boycott of Chinese goods and the central government has pledged to surge tariffs for China in the aftermath of the border clash in eastern Ladakh’s Galwan Valley, which left 20 Indian soldiers dead.

Meanwhile, these stuck imports are creating hardships for traders and industry as their consignments are getting delayed for delivery and are also impacting production.

With further impact on the supply chain, the importers are alleging that they are at the receiving end.

“This is a sudden change. We have not been informed by the government if there has been any change in the policy. These random checks and examinations will only lead to harassment of the importers,” a trader said, on condition of anonymity.

According to sources, while there is no official confirmation, the increased amount of checks by the customs are because of the intelligence alerts.

However, another person said that these checks have been in place at Mumbai airport for the past four days which should let the importers know that this is the new procedure.

“This is in light of the security concerns from China and we must keep in mind the larger picture. The same SOP and procedure is being followed pan-India for all China imports. Every importer knows of the new system/ procedure in place through word of mouth and informal channels,” said a person on conditions of anonymity.

“We managed to speak to a couple of clearing and Forwarding Agents at Mumbai and it now transpires that the Customs authorities have hinted at delays without citing any specific reason. It is learnt that though there is no written communication to the said effect, yet as a result of border tension, the imported consignments are facing severe customs hurdles at Mumbai Airport Cargo Complex. The disruption in clearances has been reported from Chennai as well,” said Godfrey Pimenta of Watchdog Foundation, a Non-Profit Organisation in Mumbai.

Since June 23, at-least two industry lobbies — Federation of Indian Chambers and Commerce Industry (FICCI), India Cellular and Electronics Association (ICEA)– have written to the government departments over the delay in consignments and have sought clarity on government’s policy over imports from China.

In a letter, ICEA said that the adverse action taken by customs at ports against imports coming from China is hampering business.

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