(C)hair-brained idea: Mumbai airport Customs officers to stand through 12-hour shift

May 14, 2016, 08:55 IST | Neha LM Tripathi

A day after a dated video of a Mumbai airport Customs officer demanding a bribe went viral on Facebook, chief commissioner orders removal of chairs, says it's part of measures to improve efficiency

A day after a dated video of a Customs officer demanding a bribe went viral on Facebook, the chief commissioner of the Mumbai airport Customs on Friday issued a bizarre diktat: no chairs for on-duty officers. Uniformed Customs officers, who usually screen baggage, will now have to stand through their 12-hour duty.

The arrival hall after chairs meant for uniformed Customs officers were removed at the Mumbai airport
The arrival hall after chairs meant for uniformed Customs officers were removed at the Mumbai airport

Sources say the chief commissioner wants the officers to be more efficient and alert at all times and the decision is a step in this direction. On Friday morning, uniformed officers of the Mumbai airport Customs were taken aback when they learnt that their higher-ups had decided to keep them standing through their shifts, split into two of 12 hours each. Each team includes 12 superintendents, 14 uniformed officers and 10 sepoys. The decision was apparently made and implemented the same day.

'Inhumane treatment'
Upset with the decision, a senior Customs official said most sepoys are aged above 50 and there are women in the teams as well. One of the affected officials said constables from other agencies are provided chairs. "But, we will now all be standing while at work. More than an insult, it is the matter of inhumane treatment of the staff."

An officer also alleged that the chief commissioner had asked them to use chairs inside the office when they needed rest. "During the day shift, when fewer flights operate, one can rest inside the office, but at night, when flights land with a higher frequency, the officers do not even get the time to leave their spot. How can things be managed then?"

A senior uniformed officer said the number of shifts was reduced from three some time ago. "I don't think there should be any issue with following the new order as a night shift officer gets two consecutive days off before reporting to work."

Another senior officer, though, said the decision had demoralised the officers. "We are on duty longer than other government agencies. Working for 12 hours without sitting is not possible. Instead of increasing efficiency, the order may backfire," he cautioned. A staff member of GVK, which maintains the airport infrastructure, confirmed that chairs meant for Customs officers had been removed from the arrival hall.

Devendra Singh, chief commissioner of the Mumbai airport Customs, said the decision was one of the internal adminis-trative measures taken to increase efficiency of officers. "If a problem arises from this decision, we will take care of it." He clarified that no formal order has been issued.

Gold bars seized
Vigilant Singapore Airlines crew members led the air intelligence unit (AIU) to an arriving smuggler, Kareem Shakeel Ahmed, at the Mumbai airport on Friday. The AIU seized 52 foreign marked gold bars, totally weighing 6.05 kg and worth Rs 1.65 crore. The flight, SQ 422, landed in Mumbai from Singapore around 10.30 am. Customs officers said on board crew members spotted Ahmed disposing of the consignment in a dustbin in the aircraft. "The smuggler threw the packet in such a way that it made some noise and drew the attention of the crew," said an AIU official. Ahmed was intercepted and admitted to being part of a gold smuggling racket. "He has been arrested under provisions of the Customs Act and will be produced before the magistrate for judicial custody," said the official.

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