Finance ministry clarifies no consignment of 3,000 oxygen concentrators lying with customs department pending clearance
The Union ministry of finance on Monday clarified that no consignment of 3,000 oxygen concentrators is pending clearance from the customs authorities. The ministry confirmed it after checking with its field formations and also sought information on the whereabouts of the consignment.
In a press release, the ministry said, “The matter regarding a consignment of 3,000 Oxygen Concentrators lying with Customs Authorities came up in the Hon’ble Delhi High Court and the same was clarified by the Government Counsel that presently no such consignment is pending with Custom Authorities.”
“However, the social media has been flooded with the news that 3,000 Oxygen Concentrators are lying with Customs. We have again checked with our field formations and there is no such consignment lying with the Customs. However, since a photograph has also been put on the twitter, if anybody has information as to where it is lying, the same may be informed to us and we will take immediate action,” it further added.
The Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) also tweeted along the same lines on Monday, echoing the ministry’s statement about the consignment lying uncleared with the customs department.
Demand for oxygen concentrators ballooned during the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic due to the increasing number of patients in the hospitals. Many countries have sent the critical equipment as part of their relief packages to support India’s efforts against the coronavirus disease. The concentrators are also one among the list of equipment exempted from basic customs duty and health cess by the central government.
Earlier in the day, the finance ministry also announced that Covid-19 relief materials imported free of cost from outside India would be exempted from the integrated goods and services taxes (IGST). The exemption will be valid till June 30, 2021, and all such goods lying uncleared as of date would also be covered by the exemption, the ministry noted.
The ministry also directed the state governments to appoint a nodal officer for availing the exemption. "The Nodal authority so appointed shall authorise any entity, relief agency or statutory body, for free distribution of such Covid-relief material," the ministry noted in its order.
In the latest development, the CBIC has tweeted a clarification to a news report saying "consignment shown in image was found to be import of 842 packets from Hong Kong by Indigo flight on 30.04.2021 which includes 300 oxygen concentrators & cleared by @Delhicustoms within hours. Any other pending COVID19 supplies may be brought to notice"
Earlier on May 1, the centre has revised the Foreign Trade Policy, 2015-2020 and permitted the import of oxygen concentrators for personal use amid a massive surge in Covid-19 cases in the country. The oxygen concentrators have been added to the list of exempted categories, where customs clearance is sought as ''gifts". However, the exemption is allowed till July 31, 2021, for personal use, according to a notification of the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) issued on Friday.