July 26, 2016
Rakesh Agarwal wrote today about his astonishing experience with the passport process. All he was doing is follow the law – but what has happened is a salutary warning to those who have the ambition to engage with the Indian bureaucracy.
This also reminded me of an incident 35 years ago with the Indian police and bureaucracy. Extracts from these comments below:
I am going through a harrowing experience in having my passport reissued.
My passport was valid until August 2018 but since it had handwritten date of expiry which is no more acceptable, I applied for a new one. I wanted to apply for the new passport under Tatkal category but since I truthfully mentioned that I have an ongoing criminal case pending in a court (agitation related), I could only apply under Normal category.
A week later, on reaching the passport office at ITO and after a 3 hour wait, I was directed to go to the RK Puram office because all cases with pending criminal cases are dealt with from there. A few days later and another two hours of running around, I was told that I need an NOC from the court. The list of documents presented to me while applying said nothing of the sort. A visit to the court costing me good part of a day, another futile visit to ITO office because they said I need to go back to RK Puram and then one more visit to RK Puram – that’s what it took to submit my application.
Police came home about two weeks later. The police man pointed out that I had missing the first P from Patparganj while filling in the application form. I duly acknowledged the mistake and informed him that I would get it corrected. He went through the verification rituals of obtaining signatures from two neighbours, copies of my documents, etc. and left quietly.
A week later, online status of my application showed “police report not clear”. Thinking it was due to the criminal case, I called up the passport office only to learn that according to the police, my address was wrong. Shocked beyond belief, I spoke to the police man who had visited and he said with a straight face that I live in Atparganj and not Patparganj, so he had rejected my application. I should go back to the passport office, amend my address and the verification process will start all over again.
AND THAT, Ladies and Gentleman, is what I am going to do today. But if it is going to cost me even a single day more because of a silly mistake, it is not just the Regional Passport Officer (IFS) that will have a piece of my mind but the government of the day. After all, what should have been mine under Tatkal latest by 10th June is nowhere in sight. And my inability to visit overseas is costing me potential funding of $3 million for my business.
Several questions arise on the efficiency and efficacy of the passport issuing process:-
1. Why is NOC needed at all from a court in the case of a petty laughable criminal case? (Pseudo arm chair nationalists ‘sensitive’ to national security refrain from answering this questions)
2. Why was the requirement of NOC not mentioned in the documents advisory that was printed along with receipt upon online submission of application?
3. Why was I made to go to the ITO office when it could not deal with my application?
4. Is “you need NOC” such a special information that it can only be disseminated from the RK Puram office?
5. Why was I not told that I need to come back to the RK Puram office?
6. If my address was deemed wrong because of a silly mistake, how did the policeman reach my home?
7. Why couldn’t the policeman or the passport office correct this silly mistake?
8. Why isn’t there a provision in the online verification reporting mechanism for the police to state why they are rejecting an application?
9. Today, will they just speak to the policeman and that will be the end of the matter or will I be put through the torture of another 10 days wait? We will see.
MY COMMENT (ON THE SAME POST)
Rakesh, this is amazing but not unexpected. You’d be surprised how hard it was for me to get my address verified while joining IAS. My father was in a transferable service so I gave my uncle’s address in Delhi as our permanent address in the application (remember, the IAS process takes nearly two years from application to commencement of work, so it would have been foolish to give a temporary address. In fact, my father was transferred from Pune to Kolar Gold Fields during this period).
Delhi police came to my uncle’s house, did some checking with neighbours (how could they possibly know me?) and reported that they could not verify my address. My uncle said they were asking money.
Anyway, to sort this out my father had to personally go to the JS Personnel who was also equally stupid and demanded all kinds of affidavits and proofs (my father’s being in a senor role in a transferable civil service meant nothing to him. He could have checked that from the Defence Ministry in one minute if he wanted to). So I was the last IAS officer of my batch to be issued an appointment letter, after undergoing great additional cost and time (my father and I had to both come to Delhi by air at our cost – 1982 was a very expensive time to fly by air – and run around till this got sorted).
MY FURTHER COMMENT (FOR THIS BLOG POST)
I have been repeatedly saying that India desperately needs governance reforms. I hope those who have not yet joined SBP will do so now. Else they can expect to experience this kind of chaos all their life.
Someone wrote on Rakesh’s post:
Itoo had some similar experience while I applied for Passport in 2001 . After many months I got the appointment with the passport officer. It was late as compared to the normal time taken for the procedure but still I was happy as I didn’t paid any bribe, and was expecting that there will not be any issue with the Passport Officer. As I entered his chamber he was reading a novel, and he let me stand & wait to finish the page.he was reading. I excuse him to look into my case , and he put a question of spelling differences in the application. Finally after 3 years, In 2004 I got my Passport.
It is really horrible. My parents didn’t go to Hajj because of this very passport office because despite every documents in place passport office had delayed my father passport either deliberately or mistakenly. And my father never visited Makkah.