Friday, May 13, 2005

Customs or ‘Kashtams’ ?

Customs or ¸‰¼õŠ?

This year may very well be the year of aviation in India. With the open skies agreement with ASEAN countries & US there is suddenly spurt of aviation activity. (Delta Airlines is now flying to Chennai) Added to this, Indian private airlines are now permitted to operate internationally. All in all the aviation industry is booming..

However, the supporting infrastructure is woefully inadequate. For some strange reasons, most of the international flights arrive and depart around midnight. We are not talking about flights every minute but a total of 10 – 15 arrivals and departures in a span of about 5 hours in Chennai. The Anna International Airport in Chennai is simply not built to handle this much volume. It is simply chaos outside & inside in the airport everyday during these crucial 5+ hours. What adds to the mess is the unnecessary but mandatory baggage screening by the Customs department.

Due to some archaic government rules, all bags (checked as well hand carry) is X-ray screened. This leads to unnecessary delay and long lines at multiple places. While one can complete the immigration process rather quickly, we are forced to wait to collect our baggage for long hours. In some cases, it has taken me up to 90 minutes to collect my checked-in baggage after the immigration.

This screening process was introduced some 25 years ago when the rules for bringing ‘stuff’ in to the country was rather restrictive. These rules have been simplified to a large extent and there is simply no need for the baggage screening at the port of entry anymore.

Customs department would be well served by re-deploying precious human resources in other places where they could really be useful to the country.

As a first step, May I suggest the removal of screening of the ‘hand carry’ bags immediately.

Hello Customs department. Are you listening?