India is the second-largest fruits importer from Australia. Also India is considered as the booming market place for Washington Apples. During the last season 1.6 million boxes of Washington apples were sold in India and Chennai city alone accounted for consuming more than 60 per cent of the imported apples. It seems that consumers are paying more for the imported fruits. The Chennai importers pay bribe to port officials to clear perishable goods on the same day of arrival and the bribe paid by the importers is definitely passed on to the consumers.
Here is a disturbing news report that explains the magnitude of corruption taking place in Chennai port. Chennai port health officer V V Sairam Babu was arrested on December 20, while taking bribe of Rs 6000 from an importer. Was it only Rs 6000 ? Not at all.
CBI anti-corruption bureau officials have found out the wealth accumulated by Sairam Babu.
- Sairam Babu used to demand Rs 6,000 per container to release imported food consignments without getting a clearance report from the Central Food Testing and Research Institute (CFTRI), Mysore.
- His daily collections range anywhere between Rs 25,000 to Rs 50,000 in cash and he used to stack them in bank lockers.
- CBI has seized assets worth Rs 1.86 crore as cash and other investments.
- Rs 65 lakhs in cash from different bank lockers and from his house.
- Fixed deposit receipts worth Rs 1.04 crore.
- Kisan vikas patras worth Rs 4 lakhs.
- Owns property in Bangalore and also a 20-acre property in Vijayawada.
- CBI had to bring a currency counting machine to ascertain the cash recovered from his bank lockers.
Why bribe was paid to the port health officer ?
- Port health department has to clear food items including fruits imported by around 300 importers in the city.
- The port health officer, is supposed to collect samples from all imported food consignment and get them tested before giving clearance.
- The packaged food items can be locally tested at King’s Institute, Guindy, Chennai.
- The fruit samples have to be sent to Central Food Testing and Research Institute (CFTRI), Mysore for tests including that of residual pesticides. The CFTRI test report takes a minimum of two weeks and holding the consignment for such a long period affects importers business. The importers have to pay a minimum of Rs 4,500 per day as holding charges in the port.
- To avoid loss, the importers prefer to pay bribe to the port officials to clear their consignments on the day of its arrival.
Shockingly Sairam Babu has been in Chennai port as port health officer since 2005. Why it took almost 4 years to get exposed is not known.
It is not surprising to know that India ranks 85 in the Corruption Perceptions Index 2008 released by Transparency International. Here is the world map showing CPI 2008.
Log on to Washington Apples, to know more about apples.
India as a booming market for Washington Apples is here as pdf document.
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