Indian expatriates in the UAE are once again arming themselves to fight an age-old Indian customs regulation restricting the import of gold jewellery into their home country by non-resident Indians.
Expatriate Indians are pressurising the federal government with representations and online signature campaigns to ease the baggage rules on gold import, formulated in 1998.
The baggage rules permit a male passenger to carry only Rs10,000 (a little over Dhs650) worth of gold and a female passenger to carry gold worth Rs20,000 (a little over Dhs1,300). At the current gold rate, only a negligible amount of gold can be bought with this money.
Pravasi Bandhu Welfare Trust (PBWT) has become the latest association to join the campaign bandwagon by forwarding a representation to Minister of Finance, Government of India, P Chidambaram to look at “this serious issue being faced by Non-resident Indians.”
In addition, PBWT has started an online campaign, and so far, “more than 4,620 people have already signed in the online petition,” chairman of the trust KV Shamsudheen said.
The representation points out that the Indian customs at Indian international airports have displayed a notice saying that as per the customs rules, passengers to India are allowed to bring only Rs10,000 and Rs20,000 worth of gold for male and female passengers respectively. Passengers have to declare and pay duty if he or she has more than that.
As per the current market value of gold, a male passenger can bring barely three gms of gold and a lady, only six gms. The weight of a wedding ring for a male passenger and a mangalsootra (an Indian wedding chain) for a lady passenger weighs much more than this limit. Under the present circumstances, a passenger has to pay tax for his wedding ring and mangalsootra, the representation stresses.
“I have seen customs officials interrogating passengers and some of them are paying tax while some are keeping their excess gold in the official custody of Airport Customs and taking the same back while returning to the foreign country,” Shamsudheen said.
PBWT requested the Indian finance minister to intervene in this issue and permit Non-resident Indians to carry to India at least 100 gms of gold by a male passenger and 200 gms of gold by a female passenger without paying tax.
Meanwhile, other expat bodies like Indian Association Sharjah (IAS), have also forwarded their representations regarding this issue, the body’s president YA Rahim said. Passengers and jewellers have also urged the government of India to revise the customs regulations and increase the allowances for NRI passengers.
“Few of our customers who have paid advances for gold ornaments, have taken them back due to this problem. It is adversely affecting our business,” accounts manager of Chittilappilly Jewellers Sunil Lal said.
“Customs authorities can arbitrarily even restrict jewellery that’s meant for formal occasions. It is, as per law, dutiable. So the situation is complex,”