DUBAI: Indian expatriates have lambasted archaic rules that restrict the amount of gold, cash and baggage they can carry when flying home.
Non-resident Indian (NRI) travellers are subject to spot and random checks when they land at Indian airports. Anyone found carrying more than the prescribed limit is asked to pay duty.
Travellers arguing with custom officials is a common sight at most Indian airports.
While the gold limits were raised recently, many NRIs said it’s woefully insufficient as it doesn’t factor inflation.
They argue that limit should be based on quantity instead of value.
Indian Customs allows male passengers to carry gold worth up to Rs50,000 (Dh3,400). Female passengers are allowed twice as much. Until recently, the limit was Rs10,000 (Dh679) and Rs20,000 (Dh1,358) for male and female passengers.
Now UAE-based welfare organisation Pravasi Bandhu Welfare Trust has petitioned the Indian Finance Minister in this regard. “The limit should be based on quantity instead of value, because rates keep changing. When the rule first came into practice, passengers could carry 250 grams, but those times were different. It should be at least 100 grams for men and 200 grams for female passengers,” said K.V. Shamsudheen, chairman of the trust.
“Even after limit was revised the quantity we can carry is only 34 grams. During my last visit to India, I was made to pay duty on the excess gold I was carrying,” said Dubai-based Indian housewife Shivani.
“An average Indian woman wears much more than the limit specified. And what does one do if one wants to buy gold from here and take it home? It seems we do not have that option,” she said.
Prerna Bali, another resident said: “I went to India to attend a wedding. So I was obviously carrying some jewellery. They stopped me at the airport and questioned me at length. The permissible limit is absurd in today’s time.”
Recently, Indians from the Gulf were advised by their embassies not to carry cash when travelling home. Only Indian citizens (not NRIs) coming back after travel can bring back up to Rs7,500 (Dh510).
NRIs and others can, however, take foreign exchange but they have to declare it if exceeds $5,000 or equivalent or where the aggregate value of foreign exchange (banknotes, travellers cheques) exceeds $10,000 or equivalent.
While authorities say screening is necessary to prevent the counterfeit currency, residents say the rule is illogical. “You need cash for emergency expenses (taxis etc). The rule is bizarre. At least some Indian cash should be permitted,” said Narendra, a Dubai-based Indian.
“There are other ways to prevent counterfeit currency coming in. Harassing NRIs is not the solution,” he added.
According to Baggage Rules 1998, the duty-free allowance is Rs35,000 (Dh2,378) apart from used personal items and also one laptop. “It is quite common for us to carry gifts for family and friends when we travel home. For Rs35,000 there is not much you can carry,” said an Indian resident in Dubai.
Passengers walking through the green channel with dutiable or prohibited goods risk prosecution or penalty and confiscation of goods as per customs rules.
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