THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Though the Centre’s decision to privatise six airports, including Trivandrum Airport, didn’t go well with a section of the Airport Authority of India (AAI) staff and the state government, the Customs Department is upbeat over the decision in Kerala. The privatisation or keeping the airports in the public sector is not a matter of concern for the department. However, when it comes to the scenario in Kerala, the Customs Department is more comfortable with the PPP-run airports than the AAI-run onets.
A senior Customs officer told Express considering the number of cases being tracked or charged by various Customs formations in various airports in the state, CIAL has been in the forefront in recent times followed by Calicut airport and Trivandrum airport, although at times Calicut tops in the table. It is true CIAL has been handling more passengers and airlines than the other two airports. So obviously, there would be chances for more cases.
But more than that, the Customs Department has been getting good support from the airport operator in terms of upgrading and introducing state-of-the-art technologies and scanning apparatus like CTX Baggage Screening Devices (CTXs) to do a 360-degree three-dimension study of the contents inside the baggage, whereas the AAI-run airports are very slow in upgrading its security apparatus on time. Further, in PPP airports, staff are more cooperative and they tip-off officers about the suspected cases.
In many cases, including the recent currency smuggling reported in CIAL, the role of airport staff was very pivotal.
The Customs Department used to reward them providing 10 per cent of the interim reward of the total value of the tax evasion to the informers soon after the crime was noticed. But when it comes to AAI-run airports, the response from them is relatively slow in matters like this. Further, in Trivandrum Airport, the AAI has taken a stand against the Customs in the court even after the Customs issued a notice to former Trivandrum Airport director and GM (F&A/Comml) in connection with a duty evasion case, he said.
Customs Commissioner Sumit Kumar, said they are not concerned about the airport operator. “Whether it is private, government or any foreign player, we are bound to go by the rules and ensure the provisions to the Customs Act are followed. Further, it is true the private operators will respond to the industry requirements very quickly as they are more business-oriented and looking for profit. However, the Customs Department has been providing its best service in four airports,” he said.