THE FAT BIKER by Rohit Paradkar.
So what happened to all those imported that used to gather outside clubs every Saturday evening?
I am as normal a bike enthusiast as you all are. I have dreamt about all those big bore motorcycles while I didn’t have a penny to buy even the cheapest commuter in town. Sighting an imported bike on the roads of this country, for as long as I can remember has been as rare as spotting a snail in a desert. But the last few years have been totally different. There are all sorts of imports, ranging from the puny CBR150 to the mighty ZX14 gathering up outside every hangout, motorsport event and even Sunday morning rides. Where did all these bikes suddenly emerge from? And an even bigger question is – where have they suddenly disappeared?
The first question has boggled the minds of the top honchos at all the bike makers who have brought their litre-class wares to country. While Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki have together managed to sell about 200 motorcycles in the past 18 months, the grey market, as everyone likes to call it, has registered more than 700 new motorcycles. These are dream numbers for the Indian subsidiaries of the Japanese Big Three. Substantially more bikes are sold via the grey channel because of the humongous price advantage over the official imports, amounting to as much as 5 lakh rupees in some cases. It’s not that the big guns who buy these models in the grey market can’t afford the extra dough for a legal import, but just like all of us, even they find the mindless import duties ludicrously high to justify the spend.
So if so many illegal bikes were registered, where have they disappeared? Well, unfortunately in our country, most law-related actions are reactive, and not pro-active. We start talking about things when the damage is done. So, in tune with the Indian rituals, DRI or The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence is taking what it calls ‘action’ against the ‘culprits’. What these good people have suddenly realized is that there are too many old imported superbikes on the road, while the companies have started importing them only recently. So they hunt down these bikes, verify the documentation and slap a challan onto the owners’ face, demanding the applicable duty. They claim that the bikes came in as spares (which attract five times lesser duty than a CBU); and later got assembled at various workshops around the country. Fake bills of entry were then made and the bikes were registered at the local RTOs.
We are sure there is truth behind this story. But my question is where all these authorities were when the bikes came in? Why didn’t the RTO verify these so called bills of entry with the Customs department right at the outset? If the said 700 bikes were imported as spares, and then registered as completely built imports, why didn’t the Customs department realize that something scrupulous was cooking? Does the government really want us to believe that all these bikes were imported, assembled, then registered and sold without their authorities playing a vital role in the whole process? In fact, I have heard of numerous incidents in the past where people have tried their level best to import a completely legal bike into the country, but to no avail. The Customs officers at various levels have denied passing it out clean for the sheer fact that they can’t earn their chai-paani if the bikes go through the legal channel. How many such officials has the DRI nailed? What further questions their credibility is their demand for the unpaid duties, from the end customer. If any importer imports a commodity via the wrong channel and sells it to me at a price that I can afford, with all the legal documents in place, it’s the importer who is at fault, not me! But since the DRI has failed to nail the importers, they are now hiding their incompetency by making the customers pay. I think DRI should act first to clean their own side of the house, before accusing the customers. I urge you to unite, demand for the answers to all these questions and if need be, fight.