Certain consignments of goods coming in from China have been held at a few ports for security concerns, CNBC-TV18 has learned from senior government officials and other sources. The containers have been held and parked at isolated docks.
When asked about the development by CNBCTV18, senior finance ministry officials said there was no directive from the government on this.
“No orders, verbal or written, have been issued to any port by customs or by the central board of indirect taxes and customs (CBIC) to bar or not to accept containers from China. If in some cases, some containers are held up then they are for the intelligence input and on the basis of risk assessment, which a routine and on-going exercise,” a senior Finance Ministry official told CNBC-TV18.
On further inquiries, it was learned that the move to hold certain containers/ consignments following intelligence inputs was witnessed at few ports of Chennai and Mumbai.
Holding containers/ consignments based on security alerts, till they are formally cleared is not a new trend.
But the timing does raise eyebrows, coming as it does amid the skirmishes at the India-China border.
When asked, senior customs officials clarified that the move had nothing to do with the developments at the border.
“It is a decision only for some consignments/ containers and not all coming from China and it will be wrong to call it as an anti-China decision taken by the government,” a senior customs official, who did not wish to be quoted, said.
Rather, the move is based on an intelligence alert that China could send certain deliberately coronavirus-infected goods to further create panic in India, the official said.
These consignments/containers have been kept at isolated docks for further investigation and sanitization before they are formally cleared for human interaction in the country, the official said.
He clarified that the move was not aimed at blocking Chinese imports and these containers would be cleared after a detailed examination, as per routine process.
Meanwhile, the clamour to boycott Chinese goods is getting louder, but the government is not made any formal statement on the issue even as moves are afoot to reduce dependence on Chinese imports.
A survey by market research firm LocalCircles showed that 87 percent citizens were willing to boycott Chinese products following the clashes the border.
“Sentiment has been hurt and many are willing to buy Indian counterparts of Chinese products though they know it will cost more”, said SachinTaparia, founder of LocalCircles.
The survey also found that 42 percent of the respondents favoured a 200 percent duty on Chinese products and imports to be permitted only when the products met Indian standards.
Industry associations are also trying to convince their members, traders, manufacturers to slowly move towards local produce rather than depending on cheap Chinese imports.