India temporarily allows Nepali traders to import goods without submitting original documents

India has agreed to allow movement of Nepal-bound goods through its customs without requiring original documents, citing the hardship that the traders have been facing due to the nationwide lockdown enforced in the two countries.

According to Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies, the Department of Commerce, India, issuing a circular to its agencies, has permitted Nepali traders to import goods by submitting copies of original documents. As per the existing practice, traders must submit original documents, except in particular cases where electronic copies were considered valid under the privilege of electronic cargo tracking system and the transshipment facilities, for import of goods.

“Citing the problems in physical movement during the ongoing lockdown in both the countries, the Indian side has adopted a lenient policy for the movement of goods imported by countries like Nepal through its sea ports,” said Navaraj Dhakal, a joint secretary at the ministry.

While India is nearing the end of the second week of lockdown, Nepali authorities extended the lockdown period by another one week, citing the growing threat of the spread of COVID-19.

At a time when traders have been complaining about the difficulties in forwarding necessary papers along with the certification of origin and bank documents, the ministry had been requesting its Indian counterpart to review the prevailing provisions. “Now, the Indian authority has consented to allow post-submission of original documents like certificate of origin, advance clearing and post-clearance audit after the lockdown period is over,” said Dhakal.

Despite the complaints from traders, the ministry, however, said that the containers loaded with imported goods entered the country without any disruption even during the two weeks of lockdown. However, controlled movement inside the country has affected movement of the imported goods. As a result, the inland container depot of Birgunj is now overstocked with the imported goods as traders and industrialists are not in a position to take delivery due to the lockdown. “Mainly industrial raw materials have remained dumped at the dry port, while it has also created congestion for fresh imports,” Dhakal said.

He further added that not a single container with imported goods is stuck at either the Indian sea ports or in the border areas. “Except for few cases of drugs and related raw materials, whose export has been banned by the Indian government in the aftermath of the coronavirus spread out, movement of containers has not faced any problem,” he said.

Meanwhile, a total of 200 consignments have entered Nepal via the Birgunj dry port during the past two weeks of lockdown. While 20 trucks were loaded with fresh vegetables and fruits, 70 tankers were carrying petroleum products and 53 bullets ferrying cooking gas. Likewise, 17 trucks were loaded with finished goods and remaining were carrying industrial raw materials, among others, according to the ministry.