Over 2,000 documents have been piling up for nearly a week, mainly due to a protest by Customs officials

There was a slight improvement in the situation at Chennai airport’s cargo terminal on Thursday with Customs officials attempting to clear the backlog of import cargo.

The cargo has been piling up at the terminal for nearly a week now, mainly due to a protest by Customs officials.

“We understand there are disruptions but they will be cleared shortly,” said a Customs official on Thursday.

As many as 200 officials have been protesting since three of their colleagues were taken by the CBI for questioning in relation to a pharmaceutical drug import case, said a Custom house agency official.

“On an average, every day, 1,000 documents have to be cleared by the officials. But due to this protest, over 2,000 documents have piled up. We may have to pay heavy demurrage charges for the cargo as it has been more than 72 hours since the cargo reached the terminal,” he said.

Many officials have been refusing to attend to even routine procedure, resulting in the backlog of documents. It would take at least two weeks to restore normalcy, another Custom house agent said.

Official sources said another reason for the pile-up was a technical glitch in the Indian Customs Electronic Data Interchange System 1.5 (ICES 1.5) software version.

The representatives of Southern India Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI) and The Madras Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) on Wednesday sought the immediate intervention of Union revenue secretary Sumit Bose and the chairperson of Central Board of Excise & Customs, Praveen Mahajan. They have urged them to review the situation at the air cargo complex and issue directions to the concerned officials to restore normalcy.

“At a time when the Centre and Reserve Bank of India are struggling to meet the challenges of current account deficit, we cannot afford to allow such actions to thwart the efforts of the government of India,” said MCCI secretary general, K. Saraswathi.

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