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Customs losing its bite with shortage of sniffer dogs
December, 28th 2011

The Customs department is facing a tremendous shortage of sniffer dogs, as it has only four dogs, as against a requirement of 40. Moreover, these four are posted only at the international airport, despite their requirement in areas such as ports and the foreign postal department as well.

However, a recent reply by minister of state for finance SS Palanimanickam in the Lok Sabha has given some home to the department in Mumbai.

In response to a question on the shortage of sniffer dogs in Customs, the minister had thrown light on the shortage, informing that the department  has only 11 of them, deployed to detect drugs at international airports in Mumbai, Delhi and Amritsar. He had then said that a committee constituted to look into the matter has proposed to deploy 79 sniffer dogs.

However, officials in Mumbai said that the city needs around 36 more dogs for the international airport, air cargo, ports and foreign postal department, to detect drugs and explosives. At present, the department is reeling under a 90% shortage.

"Around five years ago, a proposal was sent to deploy 20 dogs at the international airport in the city. However, it is still pending," a senior Customs official said, requesting anonymity. The official added that there is a requirement of 16 more dogs at the airport alone. "Sniffer dogs are also required at the Nhava Sheva port, which has tremendous traffic of import-export containers," the official added.

Nhava Sheva has daily traffic of around 15,000 containers. Officials said that only import containers are checked. Of these, scanning machines at the port can check only 200 containers daily. Around 6,000 import containers arrive at the port everyday. "The Nhava Sheva port too requires 10 sniffer dogs because it has 34 container freight stations (CFS), at a distance of between one and 10km away from each other" said another senior official posted at Nhava Sheva.

"Because of the distance, the port requires at least 10 dogs, even though the time constraint is less at the port than in airports," he added.

Besides Nhava Sheva, the Mumbai port, which has a low traffic, of 4,000 containers daily, would require around four dogs.

Officials said that the air cargo also needs at least four sniffer dogs, as it gets around 1,400 tonne of cargo daily.

Another two would be required at the foreign postal department, as drug smuggling through post is also not unheard of, officials said.

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