Liquor the most imported item at Kerala airports

June 15th, 2008 - 5:39 pm ICT by IANS  

Thiruvananthapuram, June 15 (IANS) Gone are the days when non-resident Keralites returned home with a bagful of goodies, most notably electronic gadgets. Today, that is passe. The only article that continues to be brought in - and in an increased flow - is liquor, ranging from the expensive scotch to the inexpensive rum.

Thanks to the latest amended rules, people arriving aboard an international flight can bring along two litres of “spirits”.

“India and Sri Lanka are the only two countries where an international passenger can bring in two litres,” said Mohan Kumar, a senior customs official at the Thiruvananthapuram international airport. Elsewhere, passengers are allowed only a litre.

Kerala has more than two million Keralites working abroad, 90 percent of them in West Asia.

The state has three international airports, and on an average about 4000 passengers arrive daily. Of these, close to 90 percent are Keralites returning to their home state.

Said a customs official who has served at Kerala’s all three international airports: “The rules are very clear, and it states that for every passport, irrespective of the age, one can bring in two litres of spirits. There are only a handful who do not arrive with liquor. So calculate for yourself the amount of liquor that arrives every day at the airports in Kerala.”

The rush in the duty-free shop at Kerala’s international airports peaks when direct flights from Kuwait arrive. Kuwait has no duty-free shop, and passengers arriving on these flights throng the duty-free shops at the three airports in Kerala to buy liquor.

Many bring in liquor above their allotted quota of two litres, and not all come under the scanner of customs officials.

“On an average, we open just one percent of the baggage for inspection,” said another customs official.

“First, we give the chance to the passenger to declare. For every litre of excess liquor that arrives, we levy a duty of close to 154 percent,” he said.

Yet, going by the rising volumes of alcohol coming in, it doesn’t seem anyone is overly deterred.

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