Now, where shall I start my sob story...it would have been worse if I had written this post as soon as I returned from the Passport office!
We had to renew our Passport and were asked to come there in person. My son had gone there for renewal of his passport just a week back and he spent one whole day over there. So, he kept on pestering us to leave home by 7 am and stand in the queue (he had gone there by 9 am and came back at 4 pm!). My husband told him that since we were senior citizens, we won't face much problem! No, we were wrong! The whole of Tamilnadu was at the Passport office on that day and probably everyday!
Right side of the entrance!
We had some breakfast in the morning and left home by 8 am. It was very difficult even to enter the office through the front entrance! We had to push ourselves through the crowd. Even the staircases were crowded! Got our applications sealed early (they stamp the room no.!) because we were senior citizens(!) at 9 am itself and the official asked us to come back by 12 pm for verification. The 'senior citizen' lobby was in the II floor! We were watching very old people panting and climbing the two floors. Later on when we came back at 12 pm and while waiting for our turn, noticed the lift door in one extreme corner which was not visible to new visitors like us...we saw only one lady using that lift when we were waiting there! We saw this lift at the first floor, don't know where to look for it downstairs!
The gleaming door at the left side end, is the lift!
We just went for a round and came back and started waiting! After 12, the security person asked us to go to E counter and we were so happy that the waiting time would be over soon! But no, it was just starting!
The room where the actual counters for verification was so crowded that it was more difficult than the entrance door to enter! The security guard was shouting all the time asking the extra accompanying people to leave the place, but to no avail! We really felt sorry for the security guards here...they must be 'managing' this type of crowd each and every day!
Then we somehow entered the room. Many chairs were there near the 'E' counter which was specially kept aside for senior citizens, people with small babies and disabled people! But every inch was full of people! The room had 9 Air conditioners...even some were hanging from the ceiling! But none worked! Just two windows were half open and 6-7 fans were there. A tiny 3-4 month baby was crying all the time...the mother was in purdah with just her eyes visible. She was resting the baby on the satin cloth which must have irritated the baby. Two old men were sitting with closed eyes...they were coming for the 3rd consecutive day because they kept on forgetting to bring some or other papers. I wonder why they need bank statements for issuing a passport!
We got our papers verified at around 1pm and I must mention that all the staff were very polite and we should admire them for being calm and cool after seeing so many people every day!
Then we joined the queue for paying the fee in cash (DD also can be given but should wait in the same queue!)! It was quite long, around 20 people before us. When we were second near the counter, the staff left for lunch! We were worried to leave our place in the queue! It was 1.50 pm. I had taken some Alpenlibe chocolates with me and kept on eating them! Thank god the lady came back at 2.15 itself and at last our ordeal was over!
This much strain was just for the renewal of Passport! We were sweating so much, our legs were aching after standing for such a long time and then my husband said 'now, if anyone is here to take some money and give us the fee receipt as soon as we come here, esp. after waiting for such a long time for verification, we would have definitely bribed them to do so!'
Talking about eradication of corruption is easy, but here, in our country, it is not easy at all! The whole system should change first!
My husband said that TCS (TATA Consultancey) is going to handle issuing of passports in the future! If it is true and a right decision, we can forget about bribing!
P.S.: History of this office:
The Regional Passport Office in Chennai came into being in1955. George Town in Chennai was the place where the Office was initially established. However, Shashtri Bhavan at Haddows Road became the official address of the RPO in 1966. Trichy received an individual passport office in 1983. In the earlier years of its establishment, the Regional Passport Office used to offer services to nearby states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala along with Pondicherry and Tamil Nadu. However, all the three adjacent states received individual passport offices in the year 1976.
P.S.: We noticed 3 persons sitting on separate chairs and tables and verifying the applications for a nominal amount, outside the main entrance on the left side. This will help people missing some papers and running here and there, after standing in the queue for hours, reaching the counter and then knowing that some extra copies were needed of the documents. These men put some initials in a corner of the application, it seems, which will help the counter people to finish off verification fast!