There was a time when for getting just a simple bank account open in even National capital, I tried almost each bank I could see around but failed to get one opened for months despite of being son of an existing bank official itself because I didn’t had a proper Delhi address proof.
Let’s face it, when it comes to get something from Govt offices, things get messy for professional despite of knowing the process and their own rights to get the work done. The old age slow system forcing you to get leaves from your job not once but multiple times. Random charges for which you don’t find any rationales and random excuses for delaying or denying your work. Majority of us might have gone though similar time to time.
No wonder, professional earning well even if don’t wish so, resort to easier route to engage a tout to get through the hassles of even simplest of jobs, be it getting a PAN card, getting a driving license or getting a passport.
It wasn’t the case that I wouldn’t have taken one of the above way, but after seeing my ex-roomie gone through the process in past in honest manner, after completing more than an year of AADHAR CARD in my name (thanks to Govt putting camps inside the various pvt offices even and my office was one of them) and new perceptions post the regime change, one fine day due to persistent demands of wife, I thought to get my ass up for the job while observing the common steps and my small suggestions to improve it.
The first step was to get a simple account created over passportindia.gov.in and applying for an appointment in Passport Seva Kendra of your choice. The job was fairly easy like creating a Google Account if you have all the data ready with you though somehow the center of my choice seemed a little busy than my liking as no appointments were available.
As I had no urgency of getting the passport and objective was rather go through the exercise to understand the gears and finding rationales and scope of improvements, so I had opted for normal mode only than Tatkal which would have been 3500₹ in place of 1500₹ which was the amount that cost me. Being in NCR means even if the center of my choice wasn’t available then I had other choices around within range of 20-30kms and I chosen the one in Gurgaon near my workplace. One can chose any Passport Seva Kendra out of 37 across India, which is sure lesser than one might expect in a country as large as India with 29 states and 7 union territories, but still gets the job done. As you can see the application was done on 7th September and the date of appointment was 24th September.
On September 24, I opted for a leave from office (which was a right decision for the process) and headed towards the passport office in time for the “half an hour appointment”. Strangely Passport Office despite of being such important and professional entity, it didn’t had a professional or even conventional car parking. Everyone was just parking their vehicles in front of the main gate or around as luckily the place was in a low rush kind of area which is unusual for NCR otherwise.
Here goes the first suggestion
Please do have proper parking place available near Passport Seva Kendra at least by the size of the crowd you are giving appointment for the day.
Despite of parking delays and needed Xerox copies from the nearby shops, I was on time for the appointment and was waiting over stairs as they didn’t had any restroom or that sort of for the people who reached earlier than their appointment. I spotted multiple shops and agents around the office to get you quick photos, scans, prints or getting complete files for passport created and even applying for tatkal passport though none had access to the passport office itself, but just outside assistance. No complaints as their presence much needed for the guys not much aware of the process.
In name of documents, one needs three basic documents, 1. Proof of age, 2. Proof of Identity and 3. Proof of address
For proof of age, there might be multiple choices but most reliable choice is High School certificate and you need to have both Xerox copy and the original.
For proof of identity, any photo ID proof like Aadhar card, PAN card or Driving license would do but that has to be at least 1 year or more older.
For proof of address, now that’s the most troubling part for many, one needs to have Govt certified address proof like driving license etc. Strangely they had objection over printed eCopies of AADHAR over which I was like “Seriously???”
Passport Seva Kendra refused to accept my AADHAR CARD as address proof saying that they need original card copy of AADHAR which was sure plain stupid as the whole point of AADHAR was mere number as identity than some piece of paper, which one can still get created from many of the small centers around at a small price of 100₹ if you have eCopy of AADHAR. I mean do the System really thinks that anyone can forge copy of AADHAR, when their finger print scanner anyway linked with AADHAR system at stage two of passport application process?
No worry, I had another shot, my BSNL connection bills. The connection which I had since last 4 years but it was irrational bureaucracy yet again. I had original bills of 2011 but not post that as when BSNL asked me to go green and receive bills at emails only then I gave it a go, but the same become problematic here as the guy at Passport center refused to access the print copies of e-Bills even when I had the one original bill as well from which the account number etc could have been verified.
I understand the point that its easy to take an old bill and create a Photoshop out of it putting latest dates etc and that justifies the reasoning to refuse them as proof but still its ironic that one side Govt department asks you to go green and the other one harass you just because of heeding to that advice.
No worries, I was there with preparations as had original copy of my 4 yrs old LPG connection from Indane on the same address along with latest slip and also original copy of my more than two year old PPF Passbook. As Indane passbook was handwritten so I understand the hesitation of the guy, but he objected that PPF passbook doesn’t has updated entries post January 2015. My reply was, is it a rule that one has to deposit money in PPF account each single month? I would do deposits only once in an year, any problem?
He finally admitted my AADHAR, PAN Card, PPF Passbook, High School Certificate and created a file and asked me to wait.
The wait wasn’t much long and my number might have come in next 5-10 mins and I was asked to reach out a particular A counter over which queue numbers were displayed on a LCD screen. After some wait, I reached there where he took scans of the Xerox copies from the file and uploaded them in their portal along with taking one photogram of mine and fingerprints.
Now my questions,
Point to take scans of Xerox copies, when you have the originals in front of you as you specifically requested the applicants to come with originals for verification purpose?
As I received email notifications from AADHAR system once I scanned my fingerprint, what was the point of refusing the accept print copy of AADHAR and data on it when you have the AADHAR linked system available with you and it could have been easily verified rather more easily than my PPF Account Passbook? Isn’t this just red tape?
Anyway.. things were done there and in next, I was sent to some other place, which verified my file and then I was referred to last counter. A small formal form to fill details about the inputs and I was out with slip them. Due to rush, I couldn’t get the input form but didn’t cared either.
The appointment time given to me was of 1400hrs and I was out by 1447 hrs. Efficient by any Govt office standard I would say.
The next part was the one which been notorious in last years, last time my relatives might have gone through that almost 6-7 years back. I sure had my apprehensions about that.
I had heard many stories that how house owners don’t respond well to police resulting in negative verification of tenants and seemed it wasn’t any different in my case as well as wasn’t expecting much from mine as well. Apart from that be it me, wife or house owner, all go to their respective duties in morning time so I had no idea that how the verification part would go. Though my friend Ashish, who had gone through it in recent told me that police officials do call before coming or would call you to police station.
The same did happened. On September 29, 2015 (5 days after the passport office day), I received the call from Police station at night 2030 hrs. He asked if I am comfortable to come at this hour or later. I said I wouldn’t mind coming right now as the police station was just a 5 mins drive from my place.
He didn’t told me in advance that what docs I need to come up with but I was ready with most of them from my side. After reaching there, I got to know that I need to fill a no-objection from neighbor kind of form and get it signed from the two neighbors.
Now this was problematic, as we professionals in Metro cities come across as kind of anti-social. Busy professional lives means people don’t know who lives in neighborhood. Sure know by face but rarely by name and work etc. Easier option was to get the same signed from other tenants in the same house and house owner, but Police officer said no to that. I asked help of my house owner to introduce me with neighbors at that hour, but he was reluctant being it a night and how others would respond. I decided to go myself anyway. Luckily, two neighbors which I approached, they been familiar with the process, so one of them given me copy of his AADHAR over Whatsapp and the other gave me his Electricity bill.
After reaching Police station again, I got to know the stupid mistake I made. The both copies from neighbors weren’t been countered signed to attest the AADHAR and Electricity Bill copies. Sigh!! Formal but necessary evil as at least now Govt has removed the requirement of getting the document attested by Govt officer and self signs are sufficient. Anyway, one trip back to home and all docs submitted.
Was any bribe asked? Nope..I didn’t paid anything
Is there any improvement possible?
Sure, there is. Scope of corruption comes when human angle is involved or when the directions are ambiguous. I came out of the process without bribe doesn’t exactly mean that it’s the same everywhere as just two years back I had to pay bribe for just registering FIR and I was tired enough then to even argue why.
Solution to the same is to make Police verification online. Means you submit the docs scan or photos online to some police department site and they get it verified from respective departments. While I get it that its tough for Police department as someone would submit Identity proof as driving license of Andhra and someone as any other identity proof of Tamilnadu and approaching the respective departments would delay the things and hassles on Police part, but even Xerox copies do the same. Also if Aadhar cards are available then it becomes easier to verify and not even any photo or scan needed, but just put the AADHAR number in the system and verify the details.
Anyway, while I get the reasoning to verify that the person actually been living there since long, but don’t really understand the point to ask neighbors that if they have any objection over me going to abroad.
Now the wait….
Even though the process was passed but considering the kind of things one hear about police from “Thulla” Politicians, I was worried and anxious that how this part gonna be passed and then holidays related to October 2nd and other weekends etc, it took its sweet time. I was this paranoid that on October 6, 2015, I actually called the number of police officer who called me for verification and confirmed that things have moved from his place.
Finally the status was showing changed on October 12, 2015 (may be changed earlier, but I checked on that day only) and then things were moved to third phase.
Even though I should have been receiving these updates over my cellphone as I had paid ₹35 for that in Passport office but that didn’t happen. I received some alerts for sure but not all and not in real time for sure. Scope of improvement, yes. TCS was the process owner if I am right.
The final phase: The delivery
Yup! Even this simplest phase wasn’t the one free from corruption charges in past and even now. While I get it that delivery persons SHOULD refuse to deliver in case fail to verify the intended person, but I had heard about intentional non-delivery and then asking for money for the passport or pick up from the passport office. They don’t ask more than 50-100₹ but still its bad that if they do.
Anyway.. the delivery happens via India Post so I got a tracking number and was tracking the same. It wasn’t some Flipkart-Snapdeal-Myntra that would be delivered within one two days, but still I wanted to be at home when the delivery attempted to give no chance.
I took an off on Friday as next two days been offs anyway and luckily the same paid off. The guy must have come at around 1130 hrs and yes he did asked for “sweets” putting the first stain over the process. I thought for a second and paid him considering the fact that guys at postal departments sure don’t earn much and if this isn’t being forced on me, then I can afford to (I know its wrong, but still….)
Conclusions and suggestions
While this been sure a nice experience, there been scope of improvements. Wouldn’t mention the real time SMS failure as that is inefficiency part rather than lack of system elements.
Documents submissions is a part which even though better than some private companies even, it could have been made AADHAR based or more digitized taking scans of documents though online as well as offline to ease the process for informed ones at least reducing the load over PSKs as well. PSKs can put fingerprint scanner machines outside to take the input and then attaching the details from AADHAR system to attach with the file in case all details in sync leaving the requirement of submitting anything at all. If AADHAAR system is trustworthy enough and heavily invested up then why not capitalize over it easing the process and reducing the wait time for the informed applicants. AADHAAR is a valid Address, Identity proof and should be valid birth proof as well because all the data has been already verified by Govt and finger print is least forge worthy route.
Second is Police verification part, where sure the same AADHAAR system can be used along with online verification than asking the persons to come to Police station considering the paranoia about the police in common people. Though in principle process of asking neighbors to sign does have justifications and not being in much connect with neighborhood shouldn’t be any excuse from applicant side. More transparency in the process might be helpful like uploading scans of all docs submitted by the applicant (I hope the same already happens between SP office and PSK) and keeping the applicant in loop over the exact reasons of denial if happens.
Delivery part even though problematic more or less remains ok from process point of view.
I would like to ask readers about further inputs in the process in case I might have missed any. Would like to add those in the blog post.