Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Red Channel - Baggage Rules

The newspapers dated 17th February 2014 had an item that caught the attention of HRH the Queen of Kutch. If you are a traveller, or, if you like the completely cockeyed way our system works, you should read this.

This concerns a modification to the Customs Baggage Declarations Regulations 2013. I bet you did not even know of their existence. Well, you can start thanking me for bringing them to your attention. You can also answer some hard questions from your family when you get back home empty handed after that lovely visit to some exotic foreign land.

These regulations are framed under the Customs Act, 1962. In a fascinating show of what the left hand giveth, the right hand taketh away, our Nanny – Bharat Sarkar has claimed to make our life much simpler.

Earlier, when leaving India, every person had to fill in a Departure Card and give it to the immigration officer. This gent would look at it, stare into his computer terminal, swipe your passport, punch in a few keys and lapse into a coma. He would suddenly awake and use the several rubber stamps at his command by smashing them on an ink pad and on your passport and on your form. Then you could leave India, not before showing these stamped papers to yet another CISF/Peon/Lackey at the gate.

When you returned to India, you were handed Landing Cards by the air hostesses. These Landing Cards had two portions. The upper portion was larger and asked almost exactly the same questions that were contained in the Departure Card. The lower portion was a perforated tear off which required you to make declarations of how many bags you were carrying, the dutiable goods you had and so on and so forth. Once again, when you landed you took your Landing Card and gave it to the gent at Immigration. The process would be repeated.  

Apparently, this was not satisfactory. So, in dramatic, game changing ways, we have never seen before [to use Rahul Gandhi’s oft repeated phrase] when travelling out and back to the country our paperwork is reduced. We have to fill in the Departure Card when leaving the country. And, hold your breath, when we return do not have to fill in the Landing Card. No, we are now freed of this terrible task. We can all save a few moments and concentrate on enjoying our return flights. What we now have to do is fill in an Indian Customs Declaration Form. This is what the Customs Baggage Declarations Regulations 2013 make you do. This will happen from 1st March 2014.

HRH the Queen of Kutch was deeply perturbed by the news report. So on her prompting, I researched the matter further. I found the new Indian Customs Declaration Form and read it. I was staggered. I must be fair and point out that parts of item 10 were contained in the old Landing Card. What this Form says, in essence, is that if you bring back any of the items listed in serial number 10 you have to go to the Red Channel.

If you cannot read it you could click on this link.

Please do have a careful look at the Indian Customs Declaration Form. Do look at item 10 (iv). The next time you get some lovely chocolate for your loving son Raju or daughter Pinky, be sure to go thru the Red Channel. Or else you will have to answer some hard questions from them, and probably tears. How about some lovely cheese? Kraft Cheese? Red Channel! Some bacon, sausage or that lovely Chicken Salami that you love with your drinks? Red Channel! I ask why? All this stuff is available in India. It is sold in the Indian Duty Free shop but, even if you buy a box of chocolate at the Indian Duty Free shop in the Indian airport you have to go to the Red Channel. Could you or anybody you know please give me an explanation?

Now have a look at item 10(v). No flowers, no fruit? If you get an apple which you nicked from the fruit basket at the hotel you have to go to the Red Channel. If you picked up a fruit on the aircraft and did not eat it – Red Channel. Why why why why?

If that is not enough, look at item 10 (vii). Rs. 7,500/- I mean how really draconian is that? You may need the money to pay your Mumbai Pune Taxi; you may want the money to go out and for God’s sake go to a bar and have a drink. By a subsequent Notification this amount has been increased to Rs 10,000/- But that is not the point. By the same token you can bring in US Dollars 5000 in cash which is Rs 3,00,000/-. That is fine but more than Rs 10,000/- is not? Why why why why?

I often despair at where we are going in India. The problem is that I am despairing more and more and more often. 


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