IS BLATANT HARASSMENT THE BIRTH RIGHT OF A CUSTOM’S OFFICER?

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By Kamlesh Tripathi

The sullied equation of exploitation always raises its ugly head, yet the ark of humanity drives the mankind. Ever since we are born, we are tutored, cultivated to be humane and especially with elders; and the degrees are even more in the Indian society. But then why is it that some government officials in hot seats forget they are human beings first and officers later and that they deal with needy subjects breathing behind the human face. I am pained to narrate one such incident that transcends human decency.

This friend of mine now a senior citizen works for an export house and has spent a lifetime dealing with customs; and more so with customs officials. Hard working, meek, erudite and a go-geter with that smiling face had just attained senior citizenship. But this time when I met him after two years that smile, grin was missing. And, I couldn’t help but asking why?

He smirked and smiled, as if at a huge cost. I knew something was bugging him, even when I was meeting him after a couple of years. We sat around for a cup of tea. He asked after me and so did I. And without losing time I again enquired what was bugging him. And, slowly but gingerly he came around.

‘You know for a long time I have been associated with the custom’s department. Dealing with custom’s documentation, arranging to pay custom’s duty as per government policy and getting import consignments released for manufacturing.

We have one custom’s appraiser here with whom I had good cordial relationship until one day when our documents came to him for release of our consignment he suddenly started asking for some additional documents which earlier he had not asked for as our consignments were revenue neutral, on advance license and therefore duty free and meant for export.

When we could not accede to his request and asked for some time he started delaying release of our consignments; and on this behaviour of his our top boss wrote to his top boss; who in turn marked our mail to one of his subordinates, senior to the custom appraiser in hierarchy.’

‘So then what happened?’

‘Something very uncomfortable, that I did not wish to encounter as a senior citizen in my life. Because by the time you join the rank and profile of a senior citizen you feel more and more people are part of your own family. And it hurts manifold when a younger member of your family harasses you ’

‘But what did he do?’

‘It appears he took serious offence to my boss’s writing to his top boss and thereafter he started humiliating me by making me wait in his office for endless hours, shouting and threatening me, that he will send each consignment that we get for testing which may take a month for clearance and our work suffers. And he now kind of teases me for clearing each of my files.

He would do things like keeping my file for days and then on my visiting him with a request to clear it he would first shout at me, and then as a sadist clear it only around evening so that it cannot reach the next table for final clearance the same day and I have to come again. Oh it is indeed horrible to get this nasty treatment from a young person of the age of your son.’ He halted with watery eyes, and, then continued. I kept mum for he was in full flow.

‘And, once he even shouted at me at the pitch of his voice and said, “You have complained against me and now I will see who clears your files.” I even said sorry to him and told him that I personally have not complained against you and it is only my management that has complained and that too about the delay and I can’t do much about it. But if you want I can tender a written apology to you or even the department on my personal behalf.

‘So then why don’t you make a written complaint? I’m sure you can lodge one through the website or even meet his seniors.’ I suggested in a sombre tone.

‘You’re right I can do that but I won’t.’

‘And why?’

‘Maybe because it’s our fault and the way we brought him up. So let his inner conscious someday tell him the way he harassed me was wrong. Inner voice is always stronger than outer voice.

So how will ‘MAKE IN INDIA’ happen with these INSENSITIVE Sarkari inspectors around?

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