Under Indian Customs rules Non-Resident Indian women must declare gold jewellery if its value exceeds Rs100,000 (Dh6,250). Image Credit: GN Archives

Abu Dhabi: Indian expats hassled by customs officials as they return home carrying gold jewellery may soon breathe easy.

India’s Central Board of Excise and Customs is reportedly working on a framework to make it easier to carry personal gold jewellery.

The trouble-free customs clearance would mean passengers can pay import duty based on the value of their gold jewellery and get a refund when they exit the country.

Various options including online duty payment are also being considered.

Free allowance

Under Indian Customs rules, Non-Resident Indians must declare gold bullion and gold jewellery exceeding the free allowance, which is capped at Rs50,000 (Dh3,125) for men and Rs100,000 (Dh6,250) for women. However, Indian women, who traditionally wear gold jewellery and visit India frequently for weddings and other occasions, feel the allowance is too low. Faced with “harassment” by customs officials at Indian airports, many are forced to pay heavy duty or asked to leave the jewellery behind in lockers.

Ever since India hiked its import duty on gold, people here have been using every ounce of creativity to smuggle the yellow metal to the sub-continent through the UAE.

In the first six months of 2015, about 1.8 tonnes of gold were smuggled to India by couriers.

On Tuesday, the chief of crew of a SpiceJet flight from Dubai found one kg of gold hidden in the lavatory after the plane landed at Kochi Airport.

But the stringent measures imposed by Indian customs authorities to clamp down on smuggling has often resulted in harassment of expatriates carrying gold for personal use.

Harrowing experiences

Abu Dhabi-based Indian housewife Sharmila Manohar, who was visiting Mumbai for a family wedding likened her experience to an ordeal.

“Since I was carrying some gold jewellery, the customs officials singled me out and questioned me for more than an hour. Finally they took pictures of my ornaments and made me fill several forms wherein I had to declare that I will bring back the jewellery when I return to the UAE,” she said.

Another expat Hasan Khan said his wife and daughters were hassled at Lucknow airport despite wearing artificial jewellery.

“They just wouldn’t believe it wasn’t gold and kept threatening my family. Just because you live in Dubai doesn’t necessarily mean that you will wear nothing but gold,” said Khan.

It’s not immediately clear when the new rules will take effect. Indian expats said they hope they will come into effect this month when thousands fly back home for the summer holidays.

“I have two weddings to attend in July and I am already worried about how to carry all my ornaments. It will be a great relief if the government eases the restrictions by this month-end,” said Viji Jayaraj, an Indian mother of two.