'Not regulators, customs officials are facilitators'
Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee has exhorted customs officers to remain more vigilant against the smuggling of drugs, arms and fake currency notes.
Speaking at a function to commemorate 50 years of the enforcement of the 1952 Customs Act at FICCI auditorium, Mukherjee said that he was confident that the officers and staff of Indian Customs "will continue to strive hard to fulfil the onerous responsibility cast on them and rise to the occasion to meet the future challenges".
At the same time the finance minister appreciated the "sea change" witnessed in the working culture of the customs officials. "From a role of the regulator they have now become more of facilitators," Mukherjee said.
While pointing out that the customs collection went up from Rs 254 crore in the 1960s to R1.47 lakh crore in 2010-2011, Mukherjee said there was a need to improve revenue realisation.
"On my behalf, the secretary (revenue) is continuously breathing down their (Central Board of Excise and Customs and Central Board of Direct Taxes) necks to improve revenue, because our demand and requirement is much more," the finance minister said.
The programme was attended by a large number of retired and serving custom officers, probationers and the representatives of trade and industry.
With increasing number of private ports, special economic zones and trade activities finance secretary RS Gujral said that there was acute shortage of officers and staff in the department.
"The finance ministry is in the process of expediting cadre review and some decision is expected in the matter within a month," Gujral said.
Former CBEC chairman and architect of the customs act, MG Abrol, CBEC chairman SK Goel and CVEO of Hero Motocorp Pawan Munjal also addressed the gathering.
Abrol also shared his experience about drafting the act. The programme started with the ceremonial lighting of the lamp.
Deputy commissioner (customs) Deepshikha Arora was the emcee of the event.
The finance minister also gave away 'WCO certificates of merit' to officers of the department for their meritorious services.