It is tragic to loose your close and dear ones and even more tragic is the fact that it takes several days before we can even see our loved ones. After searching the internet for a few hours and not filing a detailed article on the subject matter I engaged a clearing agent to get the job done. Subsequently I was accompanying the clearing agent at the Chennai airport to learn the procedure and process involved so that I can document the same over here for others to know.
At the outset the procedure is fairly simply, but it is advisable to engage a clearing agent.
1. The person who is booking the consignment (commonly referred to as HUM or Human Remains) in any foreign country should take the name, address and contact details of the person responsible for receiving the same at Chennai.
2. The local airlines office would call the local person to confirm with you as to whether you are accepting the HUM on the specific date. You will also need to collect your delivery order from the airline cargo office the day before the arrival of the HUM.
3. Once this is done the airlines will normally instruct you or guide you on how to go about it. It is also advisable to ask them if they could refer any clearing agent to do the needful. (I will tell you why we need a clearing agent as we go forward)
4. Take the airway bill no, flight no, date and time of arrival from the airlines office, the name of the driver and the ambulance registration number which will be used to transport the HUM within India.
5. Prepare a general letter stating that one <Name of the Deceased> S/o <Deceased Father Name>, bearer of <Passport No> citizen of <country> resident of <residential address> died on <date of death> due to <reason of death>. The next para will vary depending on to whom you are writing.
6. You need to have 4 letters (for persons listed 1 to 4 below) with a complete set of documents and original passport (for immigration) of the deceased for (permission in the order I have mentioned below) 1. Immigration 2. Health 3. Customs 4. Police Clearance 5. Import Freight Office (IFO) 6. Gate Pass.
Points 1 to 3 are done at the arrival gate of the International Airport. Now you cannot enter the arrival gate just like that. So first go meet the Airport Manager who can be accessed by anyone and explain the same to him who will call the security and inform your name and ID card details. Please carry a Govt issued ID card. Then the security guy will allow you to go inside. Do not even keep staring here and there just keep walking inside the terminal and go straight to immigration. If you have any person stopping you just tell them you wanna clear a HUM or Human Remains and you would be allowed. (Please use the word HUM or Human Remains and BODY only when necessary)
7. If someone is travelling with the HUM and is in possession of the original embassy papers and passport then you can start with the arrival terminal entry. If the papers are with the HUM or the HUM is unaccompanied then visit the International Cargo booking office of the respective airline and they would take the papers and give you the papers. Now you should take these papers and go to the arrival terminal of the International airport.
8. As mentioned above get permission to enter the arrival terminal and meet the Immigration Officer and give the letter addressed to the Immigration Officer. They will enter their records, cancel the Indian Visa(Foreign Citizen with Valid Indian Visa) if any or the Indian Passport(Indian Citizens). You need the original passport of the deceased here. They would issue you some documents.
9. The health officer will just be outside the immigration, in most cases just one man office. Just ask him and give him the letter addressed to him and the respective papers like the death certificate, embalmment certificate, sealing of the coffin certificate, doc certificate etc. He will give you a clearance.
10. With these documents meet the customs office who would be standing at the arrival terminal exit checking passengers for any imported goods. You can also ask for the Deputy Commissioner of Customs and give the letter addressed to them and the set of documents. They will simply counter sign your letter. They do not issue any separate document.
11. With these documents go to the local police station located within the airport premises. Give the letter addressed to the police station with the set of documents and he will enter the details and issue you a certificate.
12. Take all these documents and go to the International Cargo Section (in most cases where you met the airlines office folks) and tell the security that you are taking delivery of a HUM and you want to meet the IFO. He will enter the details on his records and will sign and stamp a few papers and would request you to give him a photocopy of the signed document. The next room is the import cargo office and they are kind enough to get you this photocopy. Leave that copy with the IFO.
13. With these documents go to the security who let you in and ask him how to get a gate pass. He should guide you to the gate pass officer who is actually inside the cargo section and a little (actually a lot) difficult to find. Meet them and they will check your papers and issue you a gate pass. Ask the gate pass officer to assign someone to assist you to move the HUM to your ambulance.
14. Call your ambulance and ask him to enter the gates and inform the security that the gate pass is issued and we will give him the copy shortly. Please take a few relatives to assist you in loading the HUM to the ambulance. The whole box weights 132 kgs (it may vary depending on the country from where it is sent) so it is pretty heavy and we need assistance. There were many lorry drivers who were at the Cargo but none wanted to lift a HUM. Weird but yah that’s life. Give the copy of the gate pass to the security.
15. You are now free to go out. It is advisable that the driver has the original papers till you reach the designation. In most cases no police stops an ambulance but you never know.
Now the million $ question is why do we need a clearance agent. As I said the first four steps are at the arrival terminal and the airlines office(cargo section) which is easy as people are around and with tons of light. The Import Freight Office (IFO) and the place to get your Gate pass is at the cargo division which has very little light, loads of cargo around you, haunting silence, lorry drivers running up and down once in a while, security guards (actually watch man) who has attitude of an IAS officer, dirty uneven dim lit floors and more than anything narrow lanes between tons of cargo. This is when you would get lost. Also the clearing agent knows where these dungeon offices are and takes you around quickly saving a lot of time. Also these agents don’t charge you much as they give it as a package along with the ambulance. So it also saves us from coordination between the ambulance and the time of delivery of the HUM.
Off loading and transport to Cargo section – 60 to 70 mins from landing
Collecting papers from the HUM when the papers are put inside the HUM box. – 25 mins
Permission with the airport manager – 10 mins
Immigration – 25 mins
Health – 25 mins
Customs – 10 mins
Police Station – 30 mins
Import Freight Office (IFO) – 20 mins
Gate pass – 20 mins
Transporting from Cargo place to gate – 20 mins
Off loading and bringing to cargo section can be made faster if you keep insisting with the airline office to request their team to off load quickly. But it also depends on when the HUM was loaded into the flight and what other cargo is off loaded.
Greasing of the palms:
In India the word “bribe” is nothing new to us. We all know how things work in India. Surprisingly I had no issues anywhere including the police station. Sadly the health guy wanted money (I did’nt know how much) but I bluntly gave him a stare and told him I can pay as long as he can give a receipt. He then gave me the papers. But I was also informed that he took Rs.200/- from the clearing agent. And now the guy who pulled the trolley carrying the HUM with his bare hands and walked on bare foot and helped us lift it into the ambulance – I gave him Rs.20 bucks thanking him because he did a favour and not his job and he said “Sorry Sir – it’s ok. I know how you feel now”. I wish I can take this boy and slipper the health officer and was ashamed how helpless we are.
Hope this helps anyone who is looking for this information and would like to express my love and gratitude to late Pio Bernard Maley who gave me this opportunity to write on this. Some people are too good that they help others even after they are no more in this soil. Maybe that is why God takes them to keep these good people with him. Please do make a small prayer for my brother in law Mr.Pio Bernard Maley for his soul may rest in peace.