The Finance Ministry has waived permissions required from any government departments for customs clearance of COVID-related relief material imported by the Indian Red Cross Society.
In instruction to field offices, the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) said in the wake of the extraordinary situation arising out of the COVID pandemic, the issue of providing seamless clearance to such relief material received from foreign governments and imported by the Indian Red Cross Society was discussed in a meeting chaired by the Cabinet Secretary on April 27.
"It was decided that in all cases of COVID related imports facilitated by Ministry of External Affairs and/ or imported by Indian Red Cross Society, permissions/ licences/ authorisations required from other Government Department/Agencies prior to the clearance of goods, if any, would be deemed to have been given.
"In other words, such cases need not be referred to those agencies or the requirement may be suitably waived," the CBIC said.
The CBIC, which is the apex body in Customs duty and clearance matters, also asked field offices to give the "highest priority" to these consignments and facilitate their clearance in the shortest possible time.
The indirect tax body also noted that donations of COVID-related material and medicines from foreign governments, besides oxygen and related equipment, have also started arriving at Indian ports.
The government last week waived customs duty on the import of COVID vaccines as well as medical-grade oxygen and related equipment as the nation battles its worst health crisis with a "tsunami" of infections setting a new world record for cases.
In its fight against COVID, it had also waived customs duty on imported Remdesivir injections and the drug's active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) to boost supplies.
The CBIC had directed customs officers to clear all import consignments, including life-saving drugs and oxygen equipment, used in COVID treatment on the highest priority.
AMRG & Associates Senior Partner Rajat Mohan said, "High priority Customs clearance coupled with a recent exemption for import duties on COVID-related relief material would strengthen the fight of a commoner against the pandemic".
India reported a record of 3,60,960 new infections on Wednesday, bringing its total to over 1.79 crore. Deaths also rose by a record 3,293 to 2,01,187.
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