Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government is in talks to put in place curbs and strict quality checks on the import of over 300 categories of goods that account for $127 billion, or approximately one forth of India's annual imports by value, it is learnt. A considerable portion of imports across sectors -worth about $56 billion - is seen unnecessary, which is only diluting the safety and security of the consumer and environment, while giving rise to counterfeiting and making India import dependent.
According to a commerce ministry official, the products that are being scrutinised are from sectors coming under the administrative purview of ministries of Heavy Industries, Electronics, Telecommunication, Steel and Chemicals and Petrochemicals. The government seeks to put in place the curbs and the quality control mechanism within six months.
One of the key areas of concern is the "others" category across tariff lines that have seen a significant jump in imports in recent years. Trade experts' suspect that the "others" category has become a route for diverting imports on which there are high tariffs or anti-dumping duties.
"A committee of secretaries, set up by the Prime Minister is looking into the issue. It has been observed that 78 per cent of the $18 billion (in 2018-19) worth of imports (of products) that come under the administrative purview of the ministry of Heavy Industries happened in the 'others' category," the official said. While imports worth $4.9 billion of steel scrap and related products happened in the "others" category, other sectors where "others category imports" saw spike include telecommunications ($13.8 billion), steel ($ 4.9 billion) and chemicals and petrochemicals ($ 9.7 billion). Of the $127 billion worth of products that will come under scrutiny, imports worth $68.8 billion happened in the "others" category during 2018-19.
"Many of our industries are now import dependent to such an extent that domestic manufacturing has completely been erased. So the committee of secretaries is there to look into these issues and find ways to curb these imports in a time bound manner while trying to ensure that whatever can be manufactured of quality in the country has to take place within the time frame," the official said.
As part of strengthening the quality monitoring, the government will also have quality standards set for many of these products. Imported toys, furniture, sports goods and glass items are known to be in the priority list. Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), the standard setting authority, has been roped in for the purpose.
It is known that the at least six ministries or departments are working to shortlist the items where import dependence can be reduced or curbed through these measures.