Chess Olympiad winners asked to pay customs duty on gold medals; Kiren Rijiju steps in to ensure refund

In August, India played for the first time in the final round of the Chess Olympiad. Like many other events across the world, this too had gone digital and thousands watched the Online Olympiad as the Indian team took on Russia. With some of the players being plagued by connectivity issues, the match eventually saw India and Russia being declared as joint winners. Both teams were to be awarded gold medals.

On December 2, Srinath Narayanan, the Vice Captain of the Indian team took to Twitter revealing that the medals had finally reached. His point however also highlighted several odd details. For one, the team had to pay customs duty on their medals in order to receive them.

"It wasn't easy getting it! It reached from Russia to India in three days, but took more than a week to reach from Bangalore to Chennai, and had to pay customs duty!" read a post shared by Srinath earlier this week. The International Chess Federation, he said would be reimbursing the costs.

Medals and trophies won by sportspeople while participating in international tournaments incidentally are exempt from customs duties, and many saw Srinath's post as being an example of apathy towards the sport. The post had sparked immense backlash with many lambasting the government as well as the officials who had charged customs duty for their conduct. Others called for the government to intervene.

In an update tweeted by Srinath on Friday, he revealed that the situation had now been resolved to everyone's satisfaction. "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!" he had tweeted.

Minister of State of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Kiren Rijiju also took to Twitter on Saturday afternoon stating that he was "very upset with this news".

"My office has already reached out to the athlete. It was a case of misunderstanding between Customs and Courier company. The issue has been resolved. The company has acknowledged the slip up and will return the money to the athlete Srinath Narayanan," he explained.

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Free Press Journal