Cargo movement at the Chennai Airport has been sluggish for almost a year now, but things have become particularly bad over the last week, prompting trade bodies like South Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry to write to the Revenue Department.
According to agents who belong to the Chennai Customs House Agents Association, things have gone from “bad to worse” after air customs officers were called for an investigation on July 18, after which they have been “reluctant and non-compliant” to clear the export and import cargo lying there. Cargo movement in May was down by 9% (international cargo) and 11% (domestic), signifying a bad trend for the industry.
Airport sources have revealed that the customs personnel are resentful of the fact that their officials were allegedly called for an inquiry by the CBI for clearing a consignment of chemicals sans proper documentation. This has reportedly been done on a direction from the High Court, though customs officials were reluctant to confirm the same. “There is a lot of cargo that needs to be cleared and we are working with the limited resources we have,” said an official.
Agents have listed frequent strikes, malfunctions with the Indian Customs Electronic Data Interchange System and general apathy of officials as other reasons for the cargo pile-up.
A SICCI communique lambasted the attitude of officials as “non-cooperative” and said that they were dragging their feet to clear even routine paperwork.