M. Ajit Kumar, Chairman
Ministry of Finance
Department of Revenue
Central Board of Indirect Taxes & Customs
North Block, New Delhi-110 001
Tel. No +91-11-23092849, Fax No. : +91-11-23092890
Dated: 30th March 2020
I am writing to you at a very critical time, a time when the whole world is struggling to cope with the spread of COVID 19, Considering the threat to the health and safety of our citizens, the Hon’ble Prime Minister has put in place a 21 days lockdown of the nation. We should all, both as responsible citizens and as public servants, abide by his instructions in letter and spirit.
Moreover, we in the department have a vital role to play in the service of the nation during these difficult days. The Hon’ble Union Finance Minister has announced several relief measures, inter alia, to ameliorate the problems being faced by the trade and industry as well as to ensure smooth supply of essential goods and services during the lockdown. She had also emphasised the importance of 24*7 Customs clearance till the end of 30th June, 2020 towards this end. It is a matter of pride that our officers have been doing their duty with utmost dedication in these trying times.
In this context, the Hon’ble Prime Minister has announced a dedicated fund i.e. the PM-CARES Fund as a charitable fund to deal with such situations and provide relief to those affected. I had made an informal appeal to all members of the service to contribute a day’s salary to the fund. The over-whelming positive response has encouraged the Board to issue a formal request vide F.No. 296/72/2020-CX-9 dated 29.03.2020 for voluntary contribution of one-day’s salary to the PM-CARES Fund. It is expected that we should be able to contribute an amount of more than Rs. 8 Crore to the fund which would be a tine humanitarian gesture by our officers and staff.
On the welfare side, in the interest of the well-being of our staff during this pandemic, we are trying to enable a work-from-home facility for the GST staff Further, a proposal for emergency support for the staff from the welfare fund is also on the anvil. It is also a matter of great satisfaction that most Zones and Directorates have put in place a ‘Wellness Committee’ to render assistance to staff members who fall ill or require assistance through a group of departmental volunteers. The department is thus making efforts to ensure the welfare of its staff and their families at this critical juncture.
It is extremely important to take care of our contingent staff, contractual labour and weaker sections in terms of prompt payment of their salaries as well as provision of protective materials and medicine as they are exposed to substantial risk. I am happy to note that as an act of exemplary humanitarian gesture, Lucknow Customs (P) Commissioner has paid Rs. 2000 to each contingent staff/daily wager from a corpus created by contributions from all Group A officers and Patna Customs (P) Commissioner made efforts to offer food to all workers. drivers and agents at the Integrated Check posts at Raxaul and Jogbani in addition to making arrangements of stay to ensure 24*7 customs clearance with the support of LPA1. Such actions are worthy of emulating across the formations.
While making every possible effort to facilitate legitimate trade, our frontline officers and staff need to be vigilant to thwart potential vulnerabilities in the international supply chain for illicit trade including counterfeit medicines, personal protective equipment and related items. as well as other transnational financial crimes. As stated by the WCO, “Criminal organisations have turned this global pandemic into an opportunity to carry out their fraudulent activities.” To this effect WCO has launched an IPR CEN comm group for data exchange on counterfeit medical supplies and fake medicines. I urge DGDRI and all Customs Zonal heads to take note of this, be proactive and take appropriate action.
During these testing times, my appreciation to all the Zonal chiefs for taking ownership. working round the clock with their officers, travelling the extra mile and coordinating with all stake holders including law enforcement agencies in smoothening the clearance of EXIM cargo. The richness of this experience and the sense of accomplishment we have had so far has been highly rewarding. However, we cannot afford to rest at this stage.
In the midst of all this, it is time to hid farewell, on behalf of all of you and on my own personal behalf, to Shri Raj Kumar Barthwal, Member (Customs), CBIC who would be superannuating this month after an illustrious career and service to the nation for 37 years. I personally would like to thank him for his affection and the camaraderie shown to me on my appointment as a Board Member. I will always cherish memories of his wit and sagacity. We wish him and his family good health and happiness in days to come.
In conclusion, I would like to quote our Hon’ble Prime Minister who said, “India is at a stage where our current actions will determine how much we are able to minimize the impact of this disaster. It’s time to consistently keep strengthening our resolve. It’s time to exercise caution at every step. You have to remember that Jaan hai toh Jahaan hai. This is the time for patience and discipline. Until the lockdown situation remains, we must keep our resolve, we must keep our promise.”
I am sure we, as individuals and as a department, would live up to the expectations of the Hon’ble Prime Minister and the country by carrying out our duties with resolve in these challenging times and ensuring that we and our families comply with the restrictions imposed during the lockdown.
Wishing one and all good health in the days to come.
[M. Ajit Kumar]
All Officers and staff of Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs