In a bid to cut down compliance burden and transaction cost, the customs department is working on setting up a high-level committee to coordinate between various regulatory agencies including food safety and standards, plant protection and quarantine, textiles, and drug standard control for faster and smoother clearance of goods.
Official sources told The Indian Express that a central customs clearance facilitation centre (CCCFC) would be set up this month, headed by the revenue secretary and comprising secretaries of departments including shipping, civil aviation, FSSAI, animal husbandry among others, for faster clearance of import consignments. “From May 1, local customs clearance facilitation centres at 18 major sea ports and 17 major airports have already started operating. These committees are being headed by chief commissioners’ customs and have representation from the ministries like shipping, and civil aviation. By the end of the month, a central mechanism will be in place to improve ease of doing business in the country,” the sources said.
The local committees have been tasked with identifying the bottlenecks in the clearance procedure like delay in drawing samples for lab testing, infrastructure bottlenecks, server breakdown etc and resolving them.“The local committees will take care of the intra-departmental delays. However, the issues which can not be resolved at the local level will be referred to the central institutional mechanism,” the official added.
The CCCFC will have to meet frequently, once in 15-20 days to discuss the progress made by each agency in granting clearance certificate. Further, government has also initiated online connectivity between important departments including the food safety and standards authority of India (FSSAI) and plant protection, quarantine and storage department in three ports including Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, Tughlakabad inland container depot (ICD), and Patparganj ICD.
The exercise is a part of the single-window clearance for customs announced in the Budget 2014-15. The single-window will hugely benefit around 1,30,000 importers and 1,08,000 exporters registered with the department. Last year, 37 lakh bills of entry were filed while 57 lakh shipping bills were filed by the traders.
“This will cut down the time taken. A single form will be soon made available where the importer will have to give information to only one agency and that will be electronically transmitted to others, thus curbing duplicity. In 1-2 months the online connectivity will be extended to all the ports. The bill of entry will get automatically transmitted to their systems from the customs’ system for clearance,” the official said.
The finance ministry has also asked all the departments involved in the process to give standard operating procedures and timelines for clearances to ensure accountability. “The customs system is being integrated with the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization, animal husbandry, wildlife and textiles departments. These departments are still not automated. In the next 4-5 months the system integration should be complete,” the sources added.