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Tuesday, 31 December 2013

TRAVELLING TO INDIA BE READY TO FACE RUDE CUSTOMS OFFICERS

For those of you who will be traveling to India soon Sent as received Since a lot of you and yours travel to India, PLEASE SHARE this post to spread the information so that others may avoid this harassment after landing: Rajiv and I landed in Mumbai on Oct 3 at 2:40 am. As we were wheeling our baggage out we were thinking how good the journey had been so far, little did we know that was about to change. We were taken aback at the extremely long lines and complete chaos in the green channel lines, but putting it down to Indian business as usual, we calmly assumed our spot in the line till finally Rajiv loaded our luggage for the xray screening in the green channel line. They wanted us to open our hand luggage to examine Rajiv's laptop and camera and my hand bag to look at the jewelry I was bringing to wear at our niece’s wedding. They casually asked "are you carrying any rupees?". Rajiv and I both travel to India several times a year (this was Rajiv's 5th trip this year) and have our Indian wallets which have the rupees left over from the last trip. We leafed through our wallets, and said "We think we have about 30 to 40 thousand rupees between both of us". We did not know this was an issue, but we were in for a rude shock. This is the purpose of this write-up: Here are some of customs rules in effect since May 2013 Women can take in jewelry only worth Rs. 1 lakh (Rs. 100,000 ~ USD 1600) and men only worth Rs. 50,000. It does not matter if this is your own to wear and bring back out of India. If you have an old receipt to show it was purchased for very little way back when, then take it with you. Import of Indian currency is prohibited. If you are not a resident of India (whether you have an Indian passport, or if you are a PIO or OCI card holder- does not matter) you cannot bring in any rupees. ZERO. (However residents of India who are returning from a visit abroad are allowed to bring 7,500 rupees each). You can bring in 5000 USD cash and 5000 USD in other forms (traveler's checks etc.) Indian authorities have done little to make these regulations widely known to travelers (for example, none of this noted or mentioned in the embarkation/disembarkation cards). This leaves us subject to harassment and selective enforcement by customs officials So Mr. Arora and his supervisor Mr. A. K. Singh said we had to turn in the rupees we had. After expressing horror at having our money taken away, we realized that since this was the rule, we had no other choice but to turn the money in. We asked for a receipt. When we dumped out our wallets on their counter 5 feet away and which Mr. Hooda counted, there was only Rs. 18,500 in there. Mr. Arora and then Mr. A. K. Singh yelled at us and told us we had to produce the rest of the money. We pointed out that we had miss estimated the amount, that the counter was next to where we had been standing and we had emptied out our wallets in front of the customs officers. When I offered to empty out my handbag to show him there were no additional rupees in there, Mr. A. K. Singh threw us out of his office, not wanting to recount or look at our empty wallets and ordered another customs lady to search ALL our luggage. We pointed out that we had not touched our checked in luggage, which had already been screened. Plus Mr. A.K. Singh's office had several cc TV screens covering the area where our luggage which could prove that we had not tucked any of the rupees away. In any case, they would not listen and one by one they opened ALL our luggage- suitcases and hand luggage. Another 10,000 Rupees was found in an envelope, which had been a very generous and kind gift from a dear cousin- still in the envelope that she had given, forgotten in my usual "India hand bag". So now we were up to 28,500 Rupees. The search left the searcher lady embarrassed, since all she found was chocolates, cheese, cookies, and old clothes. They would not let us go. They wanted 40,000 Rupees. They insisted. They said, do what you want, you have to turn in 40,000 Rupees. You said you had 40,000. We said we had not counted, we had estimated 30-40 in front of them, with our wallets open, IN FRONT OF THEM. But no one would listen. They said we had to produce the total 40K even if we had to convert our dollars. So Rajiv was escorted to the bank counter by the lady officer and he converted our dollars at the lousy and pathetic airport rate and said OK, here are the rupees, we want an official receipt. It took an entire slew of Indian customs officers almost 5 hours to find ledgers, get signatures and fill forms to produce a receipt for us. We left the airport around 8 am long after every other passenger who had been detained was gone. Don't know how all the other receipts got made so promptly, don't know how the over 1000 passengers who came through in that time did not have any thing that kept them detained in customs for so long as us, but I do know that there was no India Shining moment when we finally emerged. We follow the rules. We were willing to give whatever rupees we had, since we did not know about this rule that emerged in May, 2013. We were not happy about this, but we gave them what we had. They wanted more. They made us convert dollars to rupees and took that. Then we asked for an official receipt. Which took 5 hours. India Shining?

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