Clearing operations at the Nhava Sheva Custom House, which caters to the busy Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) port and handles more than 11,000 containers daily, could be badly hit on Wednesday and the days ahead.
Reason: the stoppage of transport services from various points in Mumbai and its suburbs to the far-flung custom house in Uran, by the custom authorities.
Four private buses from Andheri, Borivli, Dadar and Thane were deployed by Customs to bring its employees to the custom house. Around 150-200 staff members, reportedly comprising around 40% of the staff, travelled by these buses, which belong to the B, C, and D class employees ranging from the superintendent to the peon grades.
A recent circular issued by the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC), however, has forced the authorities here to stop the service. The CBEC circular stated that no transport allowance be given to the employees in cases where transport services have been provided.
The employees refused to accept the cut in their travelling allowance, which amounts to around Rs4,000 per month. An employee, requesting anonymity, said: “It is not as if the buses pick us from our homes. We stay in different areas and have to reach the designated central spots where these buses arrive.”
“Someone staying in Virar has to travel all the way to Borivli. He has to spend on the travel. How can the travelling allowance be deducted? And how do we go to work in the absence of the special buses, when there is no direct public transport?”
When the buses did not arrive on Monday, several employees thought that there might have been some problem and somehow managed to reach office. On Tuesday, however the attendance dropped and now employees say they will prefer staying at home than go through the hassle of reaching office.
Sushil Solanki, commissioner of Customs (Export) said, “We have taken up the issue with the ministry of finance since ours is a peculiar situation. There is no direct public transport to Nhava Sheva.”
“We had suggested to the ministry that instead of complete disallowance, the employees be given some percentage of the allowance to help them reach the designated stops. Though the suggestion has not been accepted, we are working on some other measures. Hopefully something will come out of it soon.”
Accepting that the decision has affected clearing work, Solanki said, “We are requesting the employees to not stay at home as we cannot allow work to be affected. But of course we cannot force the employees either to come to office as it certainly is not an easy task in the absence of proper transport.” “If the employees do not report for work the Custom house will be badly hit,” Solanki added.