The customs branch at the airport has been in news of late for conducting marathon interviews of Bollywood stars. But considering that the department's earnings from airport baggage duty is only Rs 60-70 crore out of a total revenue of Rs 1 lakh crore, one cannot help wonder why customs officials invest so much time and energy into the interviews. "The main concern of customs is to crack down on organized smuggling. The department's primary function at the airport is to prevent the smuggling of arms and ammunition and metals," said a customs official. "Ordinary passengers get caught mostly because they are ignorant of the rules." The airport customs branch detects at least two cases of duty evasion each day. Many officials feel that even this number would not arise if passengers become aware of the rules, which can be simplified to help them carry valuables from one country to another. They say passengers' belongings can be certified at the airport itself. At present, jewellery needs to be valued at the Diamond Plaza Customs Clearance Centre at Bandra Kurla complex (BKC); an export certificate needs to be obtained, which passengers seldom do, probably because it is a time-consuming process. "Also, many passengers simply do not know of the procedure. This is why they carry jewellery without declaring it," said a
customs official. Jewellery is not part of Rs 25,000-worth dutiable goods that are exempted. The official said the limit must be raised to Rs 50,000. Recently, actor Anushka Sharma was detained at the airport for carrying jewellery worth Rs 35 lakh, which she claimed was given to her by various jewellers to be worn at an International Indian Film Academy ( IIFA) function. "In these cases, passengers can use a provision that allows for the export of goods for display and exhibition. This way, these goods can be carried by giving a bank guarantee and a bond. A certificate is issued that is valid for six months," the official said. Till 1994, the tourist baggage re-export form enabled passengers to carry dutiable valuables. "The details of the jewellery were listed in the passport so that they could be verified upon the passenger's return," the official said. "But the practice was discontinued. Still, there is a provision for frequent travellers by which the department issues a certificate that remains valid for six months."