Traders accused of selling tarpaulins at inflated prices

- AMAN KOIRALA, binod bhandari, THAKUR SINGH THARU, Sarlahi/Biratnagar/Banke

May 19, 2015-

Traders have been accused of selling tarpaulins at inflated prices amid the earthquake disaster even as there has been a massive rise in imports after the government waived customs duty on the waterproof sheets used as shelters.

During normal times, tarps were imported by declaring the price as Rs400 apiece on the customs declaration form. The government has presently freed importers from declaring their price. A 15 ft x 12 ft tarpaulin costs around Rs800 in India. However, people have been complaining that they have had to pay up to Rs1,600 for a tarp in the local market.

Upendra Mahato, member of the Nepal Sadbhawana Party, blamed traders for increasing the market price exorbitantly. “The state should intervene and put an end to the black market in tarpaulins during this critical time,” he said.  Ganesh Basnet of Ramechhap also said that he had to pay double the normal price for a tarp which he bought in Hariaun, Sarlahi.

Customs Chief Tirtha Raj Paswan said weak government inspection had created a black market for tarps. “At a time when there is high demand for the product, many sellers have been taking undue benefits by charging high prices instead of helping in the relief campaign,” he said. Meanwhile, the Biratnagar Customs Office reported that the import of tarpaulins for commercial purposes had increased three-fold compared to those being brought in for relief purpose. Following the earthquake of April 25, the government has announced that no customs duty and VAT will be charged on tarps until June 3.

As per the customs office, social organizations have imported more than 26,000 tarpaulins while over 74,000 pieces have been imported for trading purposes in the three weeks since the earthquake. Traders have to pay only Rs565 as customs service charge while during normal times they would have to pay 30 percent customs duty and 13 percent VAT.

As of Sunday, Balaji Traders had imported 27,268 units, Parnema Enterprises 12,383 units, Binod Enterprises 10,685 units, Kantipur Plastic Suppliers 4,150 units and Krishna Hardware 4,185 units of tarpaulins, according to the records of the Biratnagar Customs.

The importers are suspected to be hoarding the tarpaulins for sale in the future. Biratnagar Customs Chief Krishna Basnet said the surge in the import of tarpaulins had raised suspicions over the traders’ true intentions. As per government rules, tarpaulins imported for relief cannot be sold to the public, said Basnet.  

The Inland Revenue Office and the Inland Revenue Department are supposed to monitor the distribution of the tax-free tarpaulins.

Likewise, the Nepalgunj Customs Office has reported swelling tarpaulin imports. As of Monday, importers had brought in over 66,000 tarpaulins while social organisations had imported 42,500 units.

Customs Officer Thakur Acharya said enterprises had been importing the product in larger quantities after the government waived customs duty. Bishnu Lamichhane,

general secretary of the Nepalgunj Chamber of Commerce, said traders had started selling tents and tarpaulins due to soaring demand for the products.

Published: 20-05-2015 08:00

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