A 12-member Indian team won its first-ever gold medal at the FIDE (International Chess Federation) Online Chess Olympiad but the team's vice-captain Srinath Narayanan had to wait for a long time to receive the gold medals and on top of that, he even had to pay customs on the same. Narayanan took to Twitter to express his frustration on the situation on December 2 and it was two days later that the Sports Ministry got in touch with him and promised support while the courier service that delivered the medals also apologised and promised refund.
According to a central government notification on June 30, 2017, medals and trophies won by Indian sports team members for participating in international tournaments are exempt from customs duties.
Update: Happy that Medals have reached more than half the players :) DHL express got in contact, apologized for the inconvenience caused, and have promised a refund. A representative from Sports Ministry also got in touch and promised support. Thanks for the support everyone! — Srinath Narayanan (@nsrinath69) December 4, 2020
Narayanan in his tweet said the medals that landed in India last month, reached from Russia to India in three days but it took over a week for them to be delivered to him in Chennai from Bengaluru. "It was dispatched around the 19th or 20th (November),” Narayanan told Mint. “Harikrishna (a team member) got his medal on the 21st. He lives in Prague and got it hassle free. For us, it came to Bangalore on the 23rd. Then it took a whole week.”
Narayanan further told that he had to provide multiple documents to the customs officials to get the clearance to collect the gold medals. “They (customs officials) had opened up the package and asked me what was inside, and what it was made of. I had to give them an official document on the chemical composition," he said. All that when a gold medal won in tournaments is obviously not real gold. "It doesn’t even contain gold or silver. They use different metals to achieve this colour.”
Following the dealings with the customs officials, the courier service DHL Express India Pvt. Ltd. that delivered the package from Bengaluru to Chennai asked Narayanan to pay customs duty of Rs 6300 on the medals, "I was so tired of all this, I just paid it.”Chief Commissioner of Customs at Bengaluru AK Jyotishi told Mint that he would look into the incident, adding, "The rule might have been applied without any deviation. If it is so, that benefit will be extended without any problem. We’re proud that somebody has represented India and brought laurels.”
A DHL express spokesperson said, "As per the government’s regulations, items received as part of sporting teams representing India can be exempt from duty if applicable paperwork is provided by the Consignee and the Customs accept the declarations."
The courier service did not clarity of Srinath was missing any paperwork saying they could not "discuss the details of customer shipments".