Air passengers accuse customs officials of extortion

New Delhi: International air passengers, who often allege harassment at the hands of the Customs official and airlines, are facing new ‘hurdles’ at the IGI Airport.

CBEC Chairman Kaushal Srivastava, who is the administrative head of customs department.
CBEC Chairman Kaushal Srivastava, who is the administrative head of customs department.
Random Referral (RR) – a procedure introduced by the authorities concerned to check ‘doubtful’ passengers – has become a cause for worry for many.

Passengers who fly to foreign countries have accused officials of the Customs department and several airlines of “extorting money by forcing them to go through the procedure”.

Several Passengers allege that the Customs examined them randomly without giving any valid reason. They say the “humiliating” procedure has often delayed their flights.

When several complaints were lodged with the authorities, they fell on deaf ears.

According to IGI Airport insiders, a passenger had in the past sued an international airliner and the Customs official for the “insult and harassment” meted out to him and demanded Rs 1 crore as damages.

The “non-transparent” procedure, the IGIA sources told Mail Today, has become a way to extort money from passengers.
The sources said the officials of Customs and airlines are hand-in-glove with each other and “looted” money from the passengers, who await a clean chit from the Customs, to settle the deal.

“The whole procedure of RR has become a tool to harass international passengers. Even after the initial round of clearance, the Customs department shortlists a few passengers randomly for RR and asks airlines officials to escort them till its office.

Airlines staffers have no answers when passengers ask them why they should escort them,” said a senior official of an international airline, who is opposed to this practice, pleading anonymity.

Despite several attempts, the Customs department didn’t respond to Mail Today queries. An airline official told Mail Today that the procedure often delays flights by 10 minutes to two hours.

“Last year, a rice exporter had sent a legal notice to the Customs department as well as an airliner for allegedly harassing him. The angry passenger alleged that the Customs department shortlisted him for the second round of questioning without giving him any reason,” sources said.
everal international airlines, however, claimed that they have written to the Customs department, asking it to change the procedure in an attempt to make it passenger-friendly.

“However, nothing concrete has been done so far,” the airline official said.

Inputs with Mail Today