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Signs to aid flyers glide through customs
December, 26th 2011

Eye-catching signboards explaining customs rules will soon welcome all international passengers at Mumbai airport.

Due to the increase in the number of duty evasion cases, the customs has decided to apprise passengers about the rules on the limit of goods and currency to be imported or carried in the luggage. The authorities are studying ways in which other countries inform international air travellers about customs regulations. The passenger-friendly signboards will be installed within two weeks.

Though most cases registered with the customs pertain to smuggling, there are other instances where the passenger's intent is not to smuggle goods and valuables into the country. "Some of them are genuinely unintentional.

In some cases, passengers do not declare goods in order to avoid small duty on personal goods," a customs official said. "In either case, if the rules are explained lucidly to passengers, they will promptly pay the duty without any excuse," he added. Though the signboards announcing customs rules, they are not within easy eye-shot for passengers.

"The signboards that have been installed do not draw the passenger's attention. Also, the language used is pedantic and not passenger friendly. This is why the message is lost," said commissioner customs P M Saleem.

"We are planning to install signboards with information that passengers can easily access and use," he added. The customs had registered more than 800 cases between 2010 and 2011, which were almost four times higher than those registered in the previous years. "Among these, many passengers who were detained pleaded ignorance about the regulations. Even celebrities like Minissha Lamba, who was carrying gold and diamond jewellery worth Rs 31 lakh, said she was unaware of the rules. The signboards are likely to help such passengers," a senior customs official said.

However, many flyers feel the customs must make the process of declaration easier at airports. "The customs can have a baggage scanning machine placed behind the luggage conveyor belt so that all bags can be screened before they reach the passenger. In this way, only suspicious belongings can be scanned further," said a former customs official on condition of anonymity. "Moreover, a common customs control can help officials exchange information on possible suspects, without causing discomfort to other flyers," he added.

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