THIRUVANATHAPURAM: The opening of the Kannur International Airport in December will throw up a fresh challenge to the Customs Department, which has been trying hard to check the rising gold smuggling into the state.
According to a source in the force, the airport's to proximity to some of the notorious smuggling dens in Bhatkal of Uttara Kannada, Mangaluru, Kasargod, and Koduvally in Kozhikode is expected to keep the force on tenterhooks. A senior Customs officer said the Customs has registered as many as 640 cases in
connection with duty evading in Karipur Airport, one of the favourite airports of smugglers in the state, in the last fiscal. The rising smuggling instances have been posing a big challenge to the force which is operational in the state with below the sanctioned staff strength.
The Customs Department is set to post a batch of 36 Customs officers at KIAL. Since the airport will only have skeletal services in the initial days, it will not be a big issue for the Customs. But the Customs will have to seek the service of additional force with the passenger and cargo traffic picking up through the terminals in the airport.
As per the Customs norms, the sanctioned strength of Customs is 144 against 10 lakh passengers. But when it comes to Kerala, the strength of Customs is far below the prescribed strength as the three airports in the state together handled close to 17.5 million passengers comprising 10.5 million international pax in the last year.
But the department has been handling the affairs with a mere staff strength below 200 personnel. Considering the volume of the gold being seized by the officials, they will have to sweat it out to check the porous bullion routes to the state.
On an average, various Customs formations have been seizing a total of around 200-250 kg of gold from various points each year. The Customs Department had seized 87 kg of gold worth Rs 26.97 crore in the
previous fiscal from the Cochin International Airport here alone, while the department has seized as much as 113 kg of gold from the state during the first four months of the ongoing fiscal.
Customs Commissioner Sumit Kumar has specified the area of the airport comprising the whole of the airport area measuring 2,000 acres encompassing the villages of Keezhallur and Pazhassi including
the terminal building, ATC tower, ancillary buildings, runway of 3,050 m length in the East-West direction, parallel taxiway, tarmac, parking bays, airline offices, oil installations and buildings, approach roads, and vacant land and all structures bounded by Kannur-Mattannur Road, Mattannur-Ancharakkandy Road, Ancharakkandy-Panayatham Parambu-Chalode road.