Although several problems related to the introduction of Goods and Services Tax (GST) in India are addressed, clearance of imports at the land customs office across the Phuentsholing border in Jaigaon still remains a challenge.

Four months since the GST was introduced, importers continue to face the brunt of slow clearance at the customs office in Jaigaon.

Recently, two Bhutanese importers said that it has been more than two months since they have been waiting for clearance from the land customs office across the border.

“Our products have already entered Bhutan but we are stuck here,” one official said.

The importers said that their office took up the matter up with the customs office in Bhutan. However, the request from the customs office in Bhutan did not work.

“I think this should be resolved via dialogues between the two governments,” the importer said.

Sharing his experience of losing documents for two days, a liaison officer in a private company, who was also waiting at the customs across the border yesterday, said it has been difficult to clear the documents.

A government-to-government dialogue is necessary to do away with the problems Bhutanese importers face at the land customs across the border, the president of Kalchini Block Byabasayee Samiti, an apex body of Indian Chamber of Commerce, Rajesh Agarwal said.

“We had a meeting with the Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) recently but I think the higher authorities need to talk,” he said, pointing out the lack of proper infrastructure at the Jaigaon land customs office. “The superintendents say they are not getting help from the centre.”

Rajesh Agarwal said the problem of clearing imports would not solve at the ground level discussions. It has to be at the higher level, he said, adding that the Bhutanese government should take up the matter with Delhi.

“We share good relationship and we are both facing problems right now with trucks waiting for clearance for more than 10 to 15 days,” Rajesh Agarwal said.

In August, more than 300 trucks carrying Bhutanese import goods were held up across the border when the new system could not clear goods on time due to lack of services. To address this, the customs office installed four more computers, upgraded internet connectivity and deputed five more inspectors.

Vice president of BCCI, Tandin Wangchuk said that the joint meeting with the counterpart of Jaigaon held on October 23 was held based on the complains.

“The finding is that there is lack of infrastructure there,” he said. “But nobody is working to solve it.”

Tandin Wangchuk also said that a government-to-government talk is necessary. A letter has also been put up to the ministry of foreign affairs, he said.

“We want to reach out to the consulate office in Kolkata,” the vice president said, explaining that BCCI would also reach out to the chief commissioner.

Meanwhile, trade office in Phuentsholing has been actively following the clearance procedures across the border.

Regional director Pem Bidha said there is not much problem these days.

“Land customs clear at least 100 vehicles a day, officials there say,” she said. “They say it is normal.”

Pem Bidha said that she visits the customs office across the border whenever she receives complains. They have been supportive, she added.

“Customs superintendents have told us that they will help us if there is any problem,” the trade regional director said.

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing