India will not impose licensing requirements on imports of laptops and computers

India will not impose licensing requirements on imports of laptops and computers but will only monitor their incoming shipments, a top government official said.

The comment assumes significance as the government had announced in August that these products, including laptops, tablets and computers, would be placed under the licensing regime from November 1.

“On laptops, our view is that there is no such restriction. We are only saying that whoever is importing these laptops will have to keep a strict vigil, so that we can keep an eye on these imports.

“This is basically surveillance, which we are doing. It has nothing to do with sanctions,” Commerce Secretary Sunil Barthwal told reporters here.

Explaining further, Director General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) Santosh Kumar Sarangi said there will be an import management system, which will come into effect from November 1.

He said the work is in progress and hopefully it will be done before October 30.

While the IT hardware products industry comes under MeitY, DGFT notifies decisions regarding import/export of a product.

Following this notification, the IT hardware industry had expressed concern.

One of the sources said, “It will be in the nature of an import management system where people will be issued an authorization. It will be a very soft licensing. It will be just an authorization.” He said that everything will be online.

A company will be able to request for import of certain numbers and will get authorization for the import.

According to the source, DGFT may also have to issue clarification on its previous notification (dated August 3), which prescribed the licensing regime for import of these items.

The licensing requirements came into force with immediate effect in an order issued in August and later amended to provide a transition period till October 31.

Restrictions also apply to microcomputers, large or mainframe computers, and some data processing machines.

India already has an import monitoring system for some products like steel, coal and paper.

Licensing conditions on imports were laid down on safety grounds and to promote domestic manufacturing of these products.

While announcing the licensing rules the government had also said it wanted IT products to come from “trusted sources”.

India is critically dependent on China for everyday use and industrial products such as mobile phones, laptops, components, solar cell modules and ICs, according to a report by think-tank Global Trade Research Initiative (GTRI).

The government has taken several steps to promote domestic manufacturing of electronic goods such as launching production linked incentive schemes and increasing customs duty on a number of electronic components.

Major electronic brands sold in the market include HCL, Samsung, Dell, LG Electronics, Acer, Apple, Lenovo and HP.

India imports goods worth about $7-8 billion (approximately Rs 58,300 crore – Rs 66,630 crore) every year.

The country has imported personal computers, including laptops, worth $5.33 billion (roughly Rs. 44,390 crore) in 2022-23, compared to $7.37 billion (roughly Rs. 61,380 crore) in 2021-22.

Imports of certain data processing machines stood at $553 million (about Rs 4,600 crore) in the last fiscal year, while in 2021-22 it stood at $583.8 million (about Rs 4,860 crore).

Similarly, imports of microcomputers/processors stood at $1.2 million (about Rs 10 crore) in the last financial year, which was $2.08 million (about Rs 17 crore) in 2021-22.

In May, the government approved the Production Linked Incentive Scheme 2.0 for IT hardware with a budgetary outlay of Rs. 17,000 crores.

The government approved the scheme for IT hardware in February 2021, covering the production of laptops, tablets, all-in-one PCs and servers with an outlay of Rs. 7,350 crores.

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