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NRI aid languishes in Cochin Port Trust
George Iype in Kochi | August 09, 2004 20:01 IST
Medical equipment, computers and other items sent by non-resident Indians as aid from the United States are routinely being held up in Indian ports for months for want of customs clearance and procedural formalities.
For the past two years now, medicines and medical equipment worth nearly Rs 2 crore sent by the Federation of Kerala Associations in North America have been languishing at the Cochin Port Trust.
FOKANA had sent the advanced medical equipment to Kerala with the help of the American voluntary agency -- Med Cent.
Port Trust officials say they have held back delivery as there is no one to receive the consignment.
The consignment of medical equipment from FOKANA was to be distributed to five government hospitals across Kerala.
The consignment was sent by the then FOKANA officer-bearer T M Rajan, addressed to these hospitals separately.
Port Trust officials say when the cargo landed in Kochi, the Kerala government backed out from claiming it on learning that it had to pay nearly Rs 30 lakh as customs duty.
"Claiming the medical equipment by paying such a huge customs duty has required lots of bureaucratic delays," a Health Department official told rediff.com.
According to the official, the state governments need to get sanction from the Union finance ministry to waive off the customs duty on charitable gifts.
Customs officials said they are ready to clear the container the moment someone deposits the duty.
The Customs Department even wrote to the Kerala government asking it to collect the consignment.
Two months back, it intimated FOKANA that the consignment would be auctioned if no one claimed it. FOKANA contested the Customs' decision saying that the consignment was meant for the Health Department of Kerala.
The Customs has abandoned the auction move for now; but the NRI goodwill gesture continues to languish in the port.
Last year, a large consignment of second-hand computers sent by some US-settled Telugu NRIs meant for the primary schools across Andhra Pradesh could not be delivered as there were no one to receive it.
More reports from Kerala