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Customs to post more staff to catch gold smugglers
October, 10th 2014

Customs will double its manpower at Chennai airport in the coming days as gold smuggling has gone up. Around 280kg gold worth Rs 71 crore was seized so far this year while last year's seizure was worth Rs 51 crore.

"We plan to double the number of personnel for customs at Chennai airport in the wake of an increase in gold smuggling. The officers are being trained as they are faced with new challenges every day," said S Ramesh, chief commissioner of customs, after inaugurating a help desk for passengers at the international terminal of the airport.

The number of gold seizures this year has surpassed the total seizures last year. "This necessitates an increase in the number of customs officers. The airport has 111 inspector-level personnel. The sanctioned strength has been met. More personnel will join soon," said an official.

Officials in uniform and plainclothes monitor passengers to curb gold smuggling. The airport has become a hub for smugglers. As customs checks have become tighter, smugglers have started to rope in ground staff and policemen to smuggle gold. There were two instances in which policemen were caught aiding smugglers.

Officials are being trained to bust smuggling rackets and also treat passengers politely. "Air customs have started a training programme to re-orient their staff's skills and increase their competence. Soft skills are part of the training course because internationally, the role of customs is moving from law enforcement to facilitation," said Ramesh. The personnel are being trained in five batches.

Air customs opened a passenger help desk at the arrival section of the international terminal as the focus is on encouraging people to abide by rules and regulations. There is feedback that many passengers are not aware of rules and get caught for violations.

"We have arranged soft skills training for customs personnel so that they will be able to talk to passengers in a polite and courteous manner. Customs is going to give a lot of importance to such help desks all over India," said Ramesh. Another help desk would be set up at the departure terminal soon.

Air customs has also brought out a guidebook for travellers containing baggage rules, duty-free allowance for Indians and foreigners residing in India, special allowances for professionals returning to India, duty-free allowance for tourists, prohibited and restricted goods, penal provisions and rules passengers should know. The booklet will be given free of cost for passengers arriving at the international terminal.

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