NEW DELHI, March 13: If you are a Nepali national and flying to New Delhi, rest assured, you have no access to the duty free shops at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA), which by all international standards is considered the fourth best in the world.
The newly implemented customs rule governing IGIA has barred Nepali nationals the access to duty free commodities. This also applies to the unfortunate Bhutanese nationals. The citizens of both these countries neighboring India do not require visas here.
Nepalis coming from all over the world have been noticed complaining that they are no longer allowed to shop at the duty free shops in Delhi´s international airport. They are mostly told that they cannot purchase duty-free items on a Nepali passport, and sometimes they are also asked to make purchases in dollars.
“I could not purchase anything at the duty-free shops in IGIA. So I had to request an Indian friend who was traveling on the same flight to purchase few chocolates from the shops,” a Nepali national who landed in Delhi, told Republica.
Another passenger coming from New York in Jet Airways flight said, “I was asked to pay in dollars and my credit cards were not accepted.”
Both the passengers said that they faced no such problems just a few months ago.
Although the customs department has now come to implement stringent rule on Nepalis and Bhutanese nationals, the question arises why the rule was not applied earlier.
“The rule has existed since few years but it is being implemented strictly now,” DC Mathur, a customs official at IGIA, commented, adding, “We act according to the Baggage Rule.”
India´s Baggage (Amendment) Rules, 2006 - (Baggage Rules, 1998) states that tourists of Nepali origin coming from Nepal or of Bhutanese origin coming from Bhutan are not allowed free allowance (Appendix E. c).
The rule still does not apply to bureaucrats, Nepalis carrying blue passports and influential businessmen. Republica encountered few of such personalities who purchased from IGIA duty-free just a few days ago.
Asked to comment, the Nepali embassy officials in New Delhi said that they too have come to know about the rule “recently.” Asked if the embassy is making any diplomatic efforts to find out the reason or lobby to give access to Nepalis to the duty free shops, the officials said that “no such action has been taken so far.”
“Although we have heard complaints from our Nepali passengers traveling to Delhi, no formal request has been made to government of India,” an official at the Nepal embassy said seeking anonymity.
He, however, said that the same rule does not apply to passengers while departing from IGIA, which means Nepalis and Bhutanese cannot buy from duty-free shops while arriving but have been purchasing while leaving from New Delhi. The Baggage Rule, however, does not specify this.
GMR-Group, the builder and operational management in-charge at IGIA, too is unaware of this rule.