A long wait: Indian diaspora sends Covid aid, but it gets stuck in the process

As India battles the second wave of coronavirus infections with an acute scarcity of medical tools, representatives of the Indian diaspora say they’re discovering it exhausting to ship medical help to NGOs, hospitals and civil society teams in the nation.

The motive, they are saying, is a cumbersome clearance process and the GST rates. Even after reaching India, a number of consignments of oxygen concentrators are mendacity at airports as a consequence of GST guidelines.

A group representing the Indian diaspora in Amsterdam, Netherlands has initiated a marketing campaign to ship medical assist to India.

‘Support Humanity in India’, began by Captain Sanjay Sharma collected 50 oxygen concentrators and despatched them to India to assist Covid-19 sufferers. While the group goals to ship 1,000 oxygen concentrators, it says managing logistics has turn into a “nightmare”.

ALSO READ | Foreign Covid aid reached India on April 25. Centre took 7 days to notify SOP as oxygen crisis deepened

Initially, the Indian authorities was not keen to exempt GST on imports by non-public entities to NGOs and different organisations which can be serving to in Covid aid. The exemption was solely relevant for contributions made to the Indian authorities by means of the Indian Red Cross Society.

This choice was revised and all imports for Covid aid have been exempted from GST. However, the exemption got here with riders.

Medical help despatched by ‘Support Humanity in India’.

“We have received several requests from different parts of India, and we want to help them. It should not be such a difficult process when all that we want to do is save Indian lives,” mentioned Captain Sanjay Sharma.

He added that since the group was receiving calls from hospitals and NGOs throughout the nation, they determined to ship the medical help on to them as a substitute of sending it by means of the Indian Red Cross Society.

“The Indian Embassy told us if we donate through the Red Cross, we won’t have to pay 12 per cent GST and air freight from the Netherlands to India. I had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union home minister Amit Shah and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to airlift the oxygen concentrators free of charge from the Netherlands and to exempt 12 per cent GST on them. But we have not received any reply,” Captain Sharma mentioned.

Later, the organisation discovered an company that will ship the oxygen concentrators freed from price.

“The freight forwarding team of Global Logistics provider GEODIS, that works with Qatar Airways CARE, gave us efficient and timely support to move this shipment from Amsterdam to India. We appreciate their selfless and dedicated efforts,” mentioned Captain Sharma.

Meanwhile, on May 3, the Union finance ministry issued a notification exempting fundamental customs obligation and/or well being cess on imports of a variety of Covid-19 associated aid supplies, for a restricted interval, until June 30.

The notification mentioned the central authorities had obtained a variety of representations from charitable organisations, company entities, and different associations outdoors India looking for exemption from IGST on import of Covid-19 aid materials, donated/obtained freed from price from outdoors India without cost distribution.

However, these exemptions are topic to following situations:

  • The state/UT authorities involved shall appoint a nodal authority in the state for the objective of this exemption.
  • The nodal authority shall authorise any entity, aid company or statutory physique, without cost distribution of such Covid aid materials.
  • The mentioned items may be imported freed from price by a state authorities or any entity/ aid company/ statutory physique, authorised in this regard without cost distribution wherever in India.
  • Before clearance of products from Customs, the importer shall produce a certificates from the mentioned nodal authorities that items are meant without cost distribution for Covid aid.
  • After imports, the importer shall produce a easy assertion containing particulars of the items imported and distributed freed from price to the Deputy or Assistant Commissioner of Customs at the port inside a interval of six months.
  • This assertion shall be licensed by the nodal authority of the state.

The first cargo of those vital provides landed at the Mumbai airport from Amsterdam on May 3 round 3:30pm. However, it was stuck with the Customs since the officers have been demanding Integrated Goods and Service Tax (IGST).

ALSO READ | 40 lakh foreign Covid relief supplies dispatched to 86 institutes in India

“After waiting the whole day, we learnt that IGST has been waived off by the government. We were relieved but it was short-lived since the conditions that have to be met are so tedious that it would have caused more delays. We did not want people to suffer more and therefore paid close to Rs.3 lakh as IGST,” mentioned Shekhar Roy Chowdhury, a member of ‘Support Humanity in India’.

At the time of publishing this report, the consignment was nonetheless awaiting Customs clearance in Mumbai.

Captain Sharma says the IGST that they’ve paid is “not reflecting” in the system, which is inflicting additional delay in distribution of the oxygen concentrators.

“I can’t understand why we are not getting any help from the Indian government when people are dying. Every minute is important for people who need oxygen support,” mentioned Prakash Ayer.

Captain Sharma says their group is making an attempt to obtain 1,000 extra oxygen concentrators and different medical tools that might be despatched to India as help.

“It will be a total waste of money if we pay 12 per cent GST. The amount can be used to procure more items. Finding a nodal officer to clear this is going to be very difficult,” he says.

ALSO READ | Where are Covid-19 foreign aid supplies going? Opposition asks Centre to make details public

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