EVERY SUMMER, the holiday woes of the Indian expatriate community in the Gulf region tend to take the familiar path. It starts with the mad rush to get an airline ticket, which invariably puts a dent in their budget with the simple forces of demand and supply spiking prices.
The arrival of low cost airlines has helped a little but not significantly enough. This year, the holiday season for many Indian travellers started off on a wrong note with the strike of Air India’s pilots. There are also the routine complaints of disrupted and cancelled flight schedules, which make travelling on vacation anything but joy.
The newest concern raised by Indian travellers is the customs duty being levied at airports for any gold they carry in ‘excess.’ For many of these travellers, carrying gold is not ornamental at all. For most, it is their safe haven, their saving, which they tend to deposit in safe deposit boxes back home. While customs authorities had been largely lax about the amount of gold in-bound travellers wear earlier, mostly keeping an eye out only for unusual amounts, there has been a sudden shift in attitude, according to travellers.
They say that the regulation limiting NRIs to carry gold or jewellery worth only Rs10,000 by men and Rs20,000 by women is being relentlessly pursued by customs officials. The problem, they point out, is that the regulation is archaic and based on gold prices set some 40 years ago. Today, gold prices have skyrocketed and going by the value that has been fixed four decades ago, passengers can hardly carry any gold or jewellery at all. In fact, any overzealous customs official can book any traveller who even wears a marriage ring, in the current scenario.
Of course, passengers have the option of depositing the gold with the airport customs officials and collecting them while returning to Dubai, but what is vexing for the travellers is also the treatment being meted out by the officials.
If this is a new found channel to make extra income, clearly, the measure will backfire even as the Indian Government is trying to attract foreign exchange and investments.
While it is important that regulations must be abided by, and authorities have to keep vigil, it is also imperative that travellers from the Gulf are treated respectfully and their convenience given due importance.
Today, NRIs from the Gulf are one of the key contributors to the country’s foreign remittance. For them, a yearly vacation is often the only luxury and binding link with their home. Making them feel welcome makes for a courteous gesture.
But more importantly, revisiting time-shredded regulations will help the country underline its credentials as being serious about attracting investments.