India agrees to extend customs opening hours at Raxaul
India has agreed to open Raxaul customs for 12 hours and recruit an assistant commissioner at Panitanki customs office to facilitate movement of cargo to and fro Nepal. Currently, shipments are cleared through customs only on five days of the week as Nepal observes the weekend on Saturday while Sunday is the weekly day off in India.
During the meeting between customs chives of Nepal and India that ended late yesterday night both the country also agreed to inform the traders so that goods entering and exiting the country are not stranded at the Indian customs point.
The two-day 16th annual bilateral meeting aimed at further streamlining customs administration of Nepal and India to facilitate foreign trade discussed 11 topics related to trade facilitation. Among them, six were related to unauthorised trade being carried across the Nepal-India border while three were about developing infrastructure in the border regions.
Director general of Department of Customs Surya Prasad Acharya and member (excise duty and customs) at the Ministry of Finance, India Shobha L Chary led their respective teams.
"The confirmation given by India to keep Raxaul customs point open from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm throughout the week to facilitate movement of cargoes to and from Nepal via Birgunj is one of the achievements,” said deputy director general of the Department of Customs Toyam Raya.
Nepali traders have long been asking India to extend customs clearance hours at Raxaul, as over half of the country's import enters through this customs point.
The new arrangement will offer flexibility to Nepali importers and exporters apart from reducing congestion at the border point that was the reason to delays movement of goods.
Likewise, appointment of assistant commissioner at the Panitanki customs will ease consignment movement worth IRS 500,000 and above, as according to Indian law, such bulk consignments cannot enter Nepal from India without the presence of an assistant commissioner.
Currently, an officer from Silguri – that is 40 km away from Panitanki – looks after the customs that has delayed movement of bulk consignment.
"India has now agreed to recruit assistant commissioner at Panitanki customs for at least three days a week,” Raya said, adding that India has also agreed to give Nepal prior information on days the official would be present at the customs. "India has also agreed to construct a food testing laboratory and provide banking services at the Panitanki customs point."
The traders have been asking the government also to reduce demurrage charges at Kolkata but the meeting could not come to any concrete decision on the issue that has been troubling Nepali traders.
The Kolkata port, where most of the import for Nepal lands, usually slaps fine if Nepali traders fail to clear goods within 14 days of arrival at the port. The port does not care whether the delay was made by protesting Indian labourers. They just impose fines.
India also agreed to help Nepal by rushing customs clearance of Nepali cargo at Kolkata and Haldia ports in coordination with the authorities in Kolkata.
Likewise, the meeting also could not reach to any conclusion on setting up of quarantine facilities and food testing laboratories at Mechi-Panitanki, Nepalgunj-Nepalgunj Road, Krishna Nagar-Badhni and Kailali-Gaurifanta.
Meanwhile, Nepal has urged India to complete the construction of proposed Integrated Check Points (ICP) in Birgunj, Bhairahawa and Nepalgunj.
Nepal – during the meeting – has also requested for the clearance of Duty Refund Procedure dues worth Rs 2.41 billion, and removal of countervailing duty enforced by India on Readymade Garment and the utensils made up of bronze.