April 10, 2010
We often hear people say ‘it is all in destiny’. Joachim Pinto, Superintendent of Customs at Mangalore’s international airport in Bajpe would certainly vouch for this. He wanted to join priesthood soon after his plus two but flunked in Kannada in the final exam. That proved to be his undoing and the priest of the congregation to which he wanted to join, suggested he become a brother. It has taken years to make that prophecy true and Joachim has now become a brother in the true sense as he preaches charismatic at Fatima Retreat House where he is the team member of Maria Prarthana Retreat. “I was surprised and crestfallen on realizing I had flunked but did not lose hopes and completed the subject. Now that I preach charismatic what that priest told me has been fulfilled. I think I was destined to be what I am today” he says with a calmness that has become an essential part of his demeanor.
Since 1997 Joachim Pinto feels he is a changed man ever since he accepted Jesus as his saviour and he considers March 25, 1997 as the most memorable day of his life. He had joined the retreat at Fatima retreat house that year. The first three days of the retreat passed off normally. But he had prepared profoundly the entire night for the 4th day’s retreat and felt totally liberated as he went for the retreat. “The word of god came to me and I immediately listened to him and began to accept what I am. The inner voice prompted me not to be after money or worldly pleasures. That assurance brought me self content. Earlier I was aspiring for higher post and social recognition. But now I am content with what I have. From that day I accepted it and I am carrying on my work with all sincerity”, he admits.
Joachim also adds that since then he has become free from all ailments or worries and that his work and social life has undergone a marked change. ”I am a contented man mentally, socially and spiritually”, he avers. The normal worldly events fail to have any serious bearing on him. He says when everyone else was crying when his 88 year old mother died last year he did not shed even a single droplet of tear. He attributes it to his accepting such things as part of life. “She had lived her life and we had cared for her during her old days. So I accepted it as part of living and did not feel any remorse”.
He recalls the tragic incident of the death of his 2 ½ year old son in 1984. The child suffered from pneumonia and the couple took him to too many doctors in their anxiety of finding a quick fix solution. This had a detrimental effect as finally with too many doctors providing varieties of medicines and when it came to the decisive stage medicines failed to work and the child succumbed to death. Taking the incident in his strides he says “though I lost my son blessings have come to the family after the renewal”. After that incident he has learnt a lesson hard way and when it comes to his daughter Jean who was born after that, to stick on a one doctor. His advice to other parents is not to rely on any one doctor rather than listen to too many people and follow their advice.
Born in Neerude near Bajpe, Joachim is one among the nine children of late Francis Pinto. He had his early education in Neerude and completed his High School and BA from St Aloysius College, Mangalore. His father died when he was in the final year of college and soon after he joined the department of Customs and Central Excise. He has served in different parts of Karnataka in various capacities and has one more year of service to his credit. His wife Winnifred is working as a craft teacher in St Sebastian School, Permannur. His only daughter Jean has been working for Barclays Bank, Singapore for the past one year.
Good Rapport with Passengers
As Superintendent of Customs at airport he heads one of the two group officers who check the baggage of customers who arrive and depart from the airport. Recently his department stumbled upon a huge cache of 6.6 kg of gold worth Rs. 81 lakhs, the biggest value of seizure so far from Bajpe airport. He says that normally a person is allowed to carry goods worth Rs. 25,000 without payment of duty other than gold, liquor, cigarettes and one laptop. But it is left to the discretion of the officers who, in some cases may allow valuables up to 35,000/- worth without duty. Ladies are allowed to wear gold up to Rs 20,000 value and men up to 10,000/- (new gold) while there is no slab for old gold worn. “Sometimes we don’t stick to figures and show some leniency when it comes to boarder line, he says.
Gold worth up to 10 kg is allowed provided the customer shows proper receipt and pays duty up to Rs. 750 per ten grams of gold. “Normally we don’t harass people unnecessarily unlike olden days when checking was foolproof. In olden days every baggage had to be checked resulting in undue delay. But now within half an hour or at the most 45 minutes a passenger can be out of the airport getting all clearances”, he points out. Normally they allow people to go through the green channel unless they suspect anyone and ask them to go through the red channel as it happened in the case that resulted in the recent seizure of gold. In fact the department chanced upon the seizure just by fluke due to the alertness of the customs officials. He agrees that that the same person might have escaped the eagle eyes of the customs department on earlier occasions.
As compared to other airport Joachim says smuggling rate is very minimal in Mangalore airport which is has no links with other airports except Cochin. Moreover the passenger load is less as compared to other airports and people don’t resort to smuggling for the fear of being caught as the airport has good officer-passenger ratio.
How does his staff cope with the rush hours that might arise due to the simultaneous arrival of flights? Normally there is enough time between flights, but we have enough strength to check the passengers, says Joachim. Presently there is some congestion that slows down the clearance process. But once the new terminal becomes operational even that problem will find a solution.
There are of course a few instances of skirmishes between the customs staff and the passengers and Joachim says mostly these altercations arise when customers are made to pay the duty for the excess baggage. “Human tendency is not to pay fine or taxes and that leads to arguments. But we convince the passengers and the issue gets solved. Knowing that the passengers are tired after long distance travels our officers are quite co-operative and polite to the passengers” Joachim declares.
Are there any instances of customs officials taking bribes and showing leniency to those customers who grease the palms? Joachim denies the accusation and says “as long as I am there such instances cannot occur. But I cannot guarantee the same in my absence”.
Does the job carry with it any risk factor? Joachim narrates two instances when he had faced threat to his life following seizure of precious stones worth Rs. 10 lakhs in Bangalore five years back. He noticed people following him in vehicle at night when returning home and had the intuition which helped him to seek the help of the people of the military base in Koramangala. Similarly when he was in the excise department he had had caught illegal beedi smuggling group in 1985 following which there were false allegations against the department people and the matter even went up to Delhi. “They even came to hit me because I was the only local person involved”, he recalls.
And what does he has to say about the allegations of his department getting embroiled in the allegations of bribe? “There is a change in the attitude of people when it comes to taking bribe. When you take bribe the respect you get from the top and also from the lower echelons reach the rock bottom. If you are sincere and straight forward even god helps”, he states. But dealing with situations when a higher officer gets bribe is not easy he says. He had one such incident when working in Karkal and immediately his department transferred him back to Mangalore where there was no income generation.
One of his sisters Tressy is a nun who, after her retirement is serving as a counselor to the provincial in Banglaore. His older brother A A Pinto runs nationally acclaimed Ryan International chain of schools. Though he is active in New Life sect Joachim feels he is steadfast in his belief. “When you live a renewal life your are following Christ and does not matter which sect one follows, be it New Life or Pentecost”, he clarifies.
After his retirement next March Joachim has decided to devote his time and energy for social and religious purposes. There is some plan to do something about their house in Neerude, which he says will take some concrete shape in the years to come. Life, he says is challenging and it is left for people to solve the problem instead of running away from them. He concludes saying “my main aim is to be contented in life. If we live a life of truth, sincerity and piety life is worth living for”.