Relief aid coming from NRI volunteers were stalled as the Centre had not exempted them from customs duties earlier.

Centre declares all aid coming to Kerala from abroad exempt from IGST customs dutiesImage courtesy: Asianet News
news Kerala Floods Tuesday, August 21, 2018 - 14:23

All relief material and aid coming in to Kerala from other countries will be exempted from basic customs and IGST, tweeted Finance Minister Piyush Goyal on Tuesday.

“India stands with Kerala in this hour of need. Central Government is exempting basic customs duty and IGST for the consignments of aid and relief materials being despatched or imported from abroad for the affected people,” the FM Tweeted.

The decision comes after the Kerala government requested for all relief aid coming into the state from foreign countries to be exempted from customs duties.

According to sources, several consignments of relief aid from UAE and other countries were blocked and kept in customs godowns in the respective countries as import tax had not yet been exempted for these consignments. The Central government had issued a Customs Notification -  148/94 - which only allowed charitable organisations (registered charitable trusts) to send relief consignments consisting of foodstuff, blankets, clothing, medical stores of perishable items, medicines, etc., without being subjected to customs duty.

In the notification, the Central government exempts a set of 6 goods from customs and additional duties provided that (i) the said goods have been imported by a charitable organisation in India as free gift to it from abroad or purchased out of donations received abroad in foreign exchange by it; (ii) the said goods are for free distribution to the poor and the needy without any distinction of caste, creed or race.”

On this issue, the source said, "However, this is a time of crisis and many NRIs who get together and send relief material are not registered charitable organisations. They just want to help out the people of Kerala at this point. This is why many items that were sent were either stalled and kept in the godowns or even returned to the people who sent it. So for these people, sending relief material became difficult due to no blanket exemptions made by the Centre. "

However, the Centre had earlier given blanket exemptions to states like Bihar – during the 2008 floods – and Jammu and Kashmir – during the 2014 floods – to import all relief material, regardless of the organisation or entity sending it.

Following the Kerala government's request to the Centre for a similar treatment, it issued a Kerala-specific notification exempting relief material from abroad of customs duties and IGST.

Speaking to TNM, Kochi customs Commissioner Sumit Kumar said that the consignments that have come in to Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode airports have been cleared by the customs department.

"We received 7 consignments until now — 1 in Kozhikode airport and 6 in Trivandrum. Out of these, 4 consignments have been cleared after receiving the bill of receipts. Three more which came in yesterday will also be cleared today.  Only consignments – both air cargo and courier cargo – coming to the Kochi airport cannot be cleared as the airport itself is shut. With the Kerala-specific notification issues by the Centre, exemptions will be made to a wider scope of items sent for relief and rehabilitation," the Customs Commissioner added.

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