Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman undertook a day-long review of all the operations at Nhava-Sheva Port in Mumbai. With Nhava-Sheva contributing nearly 20 per cent of India’s Customs Duty revenue, the Minister surveyed not just the infrastructure, but also noted the revenue, security and facilitation roles performed by the Customs Officers.
Ms. Sitharaman took special note of initiatives such as the single unified on-wheel export documentation centre and the Direct Port Delivery Logistics Programme which covers 60 per cent of imports and is an option for the registered importers to take delivery of customs cleared cargo at the Port and thereby save on transportation and other costs. She also visited the facility wherein containers are scanned using a non-obtrusive technology to plug leakages. Ms. Sitharaman was happy to note that several officers have received special training from Atomic Energy Regulatory Board for this purpose and the reports generated have been digitised and linked with Customs EDI.
The Finance Minister commended the Customs for working round the clock in shifts so that cargo movement is not affected during off-hours. Ms. Sitharaman asked the officers to also focus on speedy disposal of hazardous goods, adding that the process must be completed within three months of import. She further said that smuggling of goods must be prevented at all costs and due publicity must be given to destruction of seized narcotic substances.
In a lively and open discussion with officers, Ms. Sitharaman asked them to have an interaction with taxpayers and citizens not just to address their tax or customs related grievances but also to understand their expectations from the government. She also urged the officers to come up with suggestions on how technology can be used to further simplify the Customs process.
The Finance Minister suggested that the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs – CBIC can conduct a nationwide outreach programme to mark International Customs Day on 25th January, 2022. Citing the two-fold objective of this programme, Ms. Sitharaman said the first aim would be to create awareness among stakeholders about the path-breaking initiatives being taken by the Customs Department for Ease of Doing Business and the second would be to elicit their feedback.