Customs closure costs Rs 5 million

Shivaraj Bhatta

Dhangadhi, June 8:

Following the closure of small customs offices at border areas, the country has lost an estimated revenue of over five millions rupees.

After small customs offices based in Belauri and Punwarsha, located at south direction of Kanchanpur district have been closed down, not only revenue has been lost but also smuggling of goods has increased greatly in the district. Scenes of goods like cement, chemical fertilizers and sugar being smuggled illegally through roads located at the north-south direction of Belauri customs office is now usual.

The small customs offices have been removed from the area following security threats, said Man Bahadur Poudel, chief at Kanchanpur customs office. The customs offices were removed from the area one and half years ago due to security reason.

According to him, in case the security situation is managed well, customs offices can be reopened.

After Maoists hit the Belauri-based Area Police Post in 2001, the area has been more or less out of bounds for security personnel. But despite the absence of security personnel, Belauri customs office continued to function for about one and half years. Then in 2003, the small customs offices based at Belauri and Pachui were called back to the district headquarter.

At the same time, despite adverse security perceptions, the custom office based at Parashan of Tribhuwan Basti was not summoned back to the district headquarter. Employees of the customs office continue to receive their salaries even while staying at home, informed a staff of the customs office.

When there was no Maoist activity, revenue worth Rs 10 millions used to be collected annually from the customs office, said Poudel. Revenue collection from the area today is zero. Out of the Belauri, Pachui, Tribhuwan Basti, Chandani and Brhamdev small customs offices, only Chandani customs office is under operation. One clerk, one assistant-clerk and two peons are working at the customs office.

After Belauri, the second largest customs office in the district, was closed, smuggling activities have become rampant in the area, said locals. Maoists allegedly levy a 10 per tax on smugglers. Due to the absence of security forces at Belauri customs office, businessmen in even mid-west region of Surkhet are reported to be hit, said locals.

In Nepal, one sack of cement costs Rs 320 which can be easily bought for Rs 176 in Belauri.

While per sack of cement is available Rs 150 cheaper, the price of sugar is cheaper by Rs 12 per kg. Most businessmen in the mid-west region buy such cheap goods and supply their region by preparing fake bills, said Ram Chandra Joshi, a local businessman. Of the total revenue collected by district customs office, 30 to 35 per cent was collected by small customs offices.

Meanwhile, a total revenue of Rs 35 million has been targeted for the fiscal yea 2061-62 by the customs.