In respect of the exports, the Parliament has laid down that the task of the DGFT is to facilitate exports. The same applies to the CBIC because the local taxes cannot be exported therefore there is no responsibility of the collection of the taxes associated with the exports, but the responsibility is to administer the exemption & refund of taxes in an exporter friendly manner.  The computerization of the DGFT was introduced in the year 1988 & in 2000, there was an exercise carried out to strengthen the database of the IEC holders & a Business Identification Number (BIN) was carried out but till date, there is not even some semblance of the facilitation of the exporters visible. The reasons are not far to seek because there is no mindset to provide the service but on the other hand there is harassment at each & every step. The true story of both the CBIC & the DGFT is that they would behave like a traffic constable who hides behind a tree & then appears to collect the rent as soon as you indulge into a traffic violation & the law is made with that intention in mind.

Today, we talk about very simply process of transparency in terms of data sharing by both these authorities. We talk about ease of doing business & climbing the ladder in the world order & making tall claims about success achieved but the moot question is that do we really understand the concept of ease of doing business. It is really very difficult to comprehend that why the DGFT & CBIC simply pretend that the back office information captured in reference to a particular IEC or BIN cannot be shared with the exporter at the click of mouse so that the exporter is in a position to know at a glance that what transactions were carried out in their IEC/BIN during the course of the day. The world has been compelled to deploy the artificial intelligence but then why these two authorities are reluctant to share the data with the owner/users (in fiduciary capacity) of the services & between themselves for the benefit of the exporters & truly indulge in ease of doing business.

Is the DGFT not able to really understand that if you are working with the software/EDI then the data should be shared with the exporter for the purpose of the determination of the compliance & the exporter should be able to carry out self-assessment on the DGFT website then why the DGFT should indulge into idiocies by not sharing the data generated in the system with the exporter. The DGFT generates a file number for each & every submission made to just show a performance record & justify its existence but then why the intelligence should stop at that. Any person with little common sense should comprehend that if a file number is generated then it is the counter responsibility of the DGFT to generate an outcome in respect of the submission made & this outcome should be visible to the exporter. The sense of my plea is very simple that what information is available to the counter clerk in the DGFT/any other official for delivery of the documents Based on file/key number) to the exporter should be shared with the exporter. However, you find that the DGFT is very reluctant to implement this simplest of the facilitation measure & then you know that there is no intention to facilitate. The facilitation talk is merely a showcasing! Not only this, the exporter should be able to see the deficiency memo on the system so that the exporters do not have to waste their time in the corridors of DGFT. The exporter is accessing the Inbox through the digital signature therefore the exporter should be able to issue the reply in the system & that response should suffice & be acted upon by the DGFT if the exporter does not wish to submit any further documents as such. This would save huge resources in terms of the unnecessary collection & re-submission of the documents. If any intelligent officer finds any quarrel with this then please specify the element of doubt & I will respond to that. This implementation does not require deployment of any excess manpower because it is possible through the artificial intelligence i.e. the EDI system in operation. Is the DGFT not able to understand that there is no drawback in implementing this & if that is the case then do the readers think that that DGFT should be allowed to continue in position! Is the DGFT not able to understand that this will bring down the transaction costs of the exporters & make them competitive in the International market. There have been committees constituted to study & reduce the transaction costs in the DGFT then why they could not think about this & get it implemented!  It is not that, this cannot be done but the fact is that nobody wants to implement it because it reduces the clout of the DGFT drastically! Recently, the RLA, Mumbai restricted the number of exporters to ten who can meet the official in-charge, but the point is that why the exporters line up before these DGFT officials if the DGFT officials are discharging their responsibility with accountability? In the first place, why there is a restriction placed in number of exporters meeting the officials & further are these exporters seeking undue favours or they have ulterior motives is the moot question failing which why they should meet these officials. I have always maintained that visiting the DGFT is the job of a peon to submit & collect the documents except in those cases where the Personal Hearing is scheduled otherwise the file should speak for itself & the task should be completed on due date & delivered through the PRO counter or deficiency raised in the system then why the DGFT is simply missing the point? Is the DGFT not able to see & understand that if the requested information is available through the inbox & replies given on the system then how many exporters will stop visiting the DGFT office & how much time, energy & efforts they will be saved? Is this not good enough reason. There are CCTVs installed in Mumbai. Just see, how many people are there wasting their time? Then why the DGFT is not able to deliver the simplest of things. I find this very shameful & disgusting because this is on purpose. You want to kill these issues by just being a mute spectator though you are entrusted with that responsibility by the GoI! I am amazed that why it does not bother the conscience of the officials?

I can understand that the officials at the lower level may get the false sense if power & privilege when they see common people wasting their time & energy just to meet them. I very often see the Jt. DGFT’s pleading with the dealing hands & the FTDO’s to locate the file & bring the same. I find this very funny because we have reduced computerization & systems to the state of idiocy. Why should the Jt. DGFT not able to access the system & respond? Why the DGFT will never have the courage to put things in order when it comes to strike down the corrupt practises in the organization.

The CVC says refunds data should be uploaded on the website because of the corruption factor but why not the work compliance & the deficiency memos to improve the service. Please note that the exporters are paying hefty fees to the DGFT & then too they are not getting the basic services. Why the DGFT should be comfortable & satisfied with such poor ground reality. I find it really very difficult to even converse with people who pretend that they do not understand even the very basics but then they should be accepted as the policymakers just because they were raised to that level of inefficiency in a rotten organization beyond redemption.

In 2012, I was asked to give a note on easy dissemination of information system in Customs in the CC’s Open House meeting. At that point of time, I suggested that the Customs department should have an inbox in respect of each & every BIN number so that the exporter/importer is able to get information in respect of the S/B s as well as the B/E s which are passed through the RMS facility or through the assessment procedure. This will help the exporter in getting real time information & monitor the clearances in an effective manner. Further, the exporter/importer should be able to get access to the information available in the BIN number. Another significant point is that the exporters should be able to get the online information in respect of imports & exports in respect of licences, which carry export obligation. Under these circumstances, the exporters will be able to monitor online the status of the export obligation & attend to customs queries appropriately or take remedial action in time.

Please note that all this information is available with the customs & utilized by the customs. The sharing of information will result in betterment for all concerned & there is absolutely no reason that why customs should withhold this information when the same belongs to the exporter/importer.

The readers will know that the Customs department is required to register each & every authorization for use therefore there is a complete record of the utilization in respect of the imports & exports. This data prints or transmission is good enough for DGFT to reach a conclusion regarding the fulfilment of the export obligation wherever applicable in conjunction with the e BRC data uploaded on the DGFT website or Export Data Processing and Monitoring System (EDPMS) managed by the RBI. This will enable the exporter to take care of the pending obligations, if any, very easily & simultaneously relieve them of the burden of maintaining records at their end. Once again, no one in the CBIC is keen to implement this. What can be the motivation is the moot question? To my mind, nobody wants to own responsibility & be accountable. In an EDI system, there is time stamping of events therefore the systems diagnose the efficiency of the officials & tells you what they are up to? Secondly, once the system is rigorously followed then the official is in no position to grant undue favours to the rich & the powerful (there are more skeletons in their cupboards) & they would never like to lose that power in any case. In hindsight, abuse of power in the bureaucracy is the ultimate power & therefore there cannot be any end to corrupt practices. The ostrich approach prevails & remains the bane of the Indian exporters because the DGFT & CBIC act as the biggest stumbling block despite the mandate of the Parliament to facilitate.

(Above are personal view of Author and he can be reached at [email protected])

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February 2021