Monday, April 25, 2011

Now I Know How And Why We Get Tempted To Bribe!

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Regional Passport office, Chennai


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!



Left side of the entrance!



Right side of the entrance!



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!

24 comments :

BK Chowla, said...

I can understand how exactly must you be feeling.
Delhi RPO is no better. It is the same story of timings.I had to get our PP renewed and I was in the Q before 8 in the morning for the office which opens around 10.
Least they could do is to have a toilet for those who stand outside for hours in temp of 38c.
Now , to avoid all the hassles, a broker at the car parking lot offered to get me the job done for Rs 1000/.May e I should have, but, after reading your post, I am convinced as to why are we amongst the most corrupt nations in the world.

Sandhya said...

BK Chowla: Yes, we stand there in the queue for hours and keep on cursing the system! Who will take the initiative to change it? We are following the British system even now after so much progress and so much population increase!

We can get the passport application form from the Post Office, fill it up and post by speed post. But a friend of my son, had lost his old passport and other important documents...reason...it did not reach the Passport office!

Baskar K said...

I am understandably with you, when I applied for the permit to build the house for every one of the queries we sent a legal notice asking them what specific concern they are alleviating with the query and under what section of the act it is tenable. The moment we sent this notice their queries stopped. I spent Rs. 1500 to draft the legal response through a lawyer, money well spent.

Imaging a plight of a simple Tamil, who will feel like he is in foreign land with all signs only in English and Hindi.... My heart goes out to them as well.

KParthasarathi said...

The only saving grace is that the passports need to be renewed once in 10 years.Imagine the ordeal if it is once in five years.
To beat the long queues, can we not book our time online and only those with a printed copy of booking allowed 15 minutes before the appointed time.

Sandhya said...

Baskar: That is nice! Maybe people should start taking action legally and then these unnecessary information will not be sought in the already long 'information seeking' application forms for anything.

My husband noticed the language in the board and commented like you did now, when an old man kept on asking the security man, where to go and when to go and many other questions. No reception or person was there in a prominent place to guide people. The security man was getting irritated and was snapping at the old man,pointing at the board!


KParthasarathy: You said it, Partha sir! Both of us were saying the same sentence 'thank god, we need not come back here for another 10 years!'!

My son had an appointment at 10 am! He got is sealed and could reach the counter again for verification after lunch, after waiting in the long queues!

Welcome here and thank you, Baskar!

UmaS said...

I dread this visit to Passport office.

And I can understand ur pain in waiting for such long hours. U rightly said the reason for bribing - there are many ppl, who cannot come and stand in the queue, for various reasons and they might be willing to pay the money to get things done.

Mostly all the Govt offices are like this !!!

Ugich Konitari said...

Sandhya,

We did this 6 years ago, and I could have sworn that the pictures of queues you have on this post, were from the Mumbai Regional Passport Office. Except, here there are 4 long sides to the building and the lines go all around. We went in the monsoons and you can imagine the dripping queues, with umbrellas poking everyone in the face. Inside was no better, and the ground floor office (of a multi storey building) actually dripped on to a chair in the senior citizens line. Of course I was sitting next to it. :-) I need to go for my daughter's renewal now, and am dreading it, though will probably go in with tiffins, cushions, raincoats and of course, some ointment for the painful legs. :-)

Renu said...

Same problem I felt when last week I went to get UK visa and I wasthinking of blogging about it, then I came to know that even Indian visa is more difficult to get:)

Deepa said...

Oh God! My passport is coming up for renewal next year. I shudder to think of this ordeal. Maybe by then TCS may have streamlined the system. They should try to introduce a system like the US visa application. Where you block your time online. Or they should have area wise outlets - like the RTO does.

Roshmi Sinha said...

Ahh! Thats not bribe. Its chai-paani, swalpa adjust maadi and the beauty of democracy ;)

varunavis said...

Because of all these headache people prefer giving bribe to get a passport.For renewal of passport it took just 30 minutes in dubai.They just took the picture and few documents and the fees and within one week passport was delivered to the house.

The thing here is population and passport offices are not able to handle them.When i applied for passport for pinky i applied online and i was given a time.I went there at that time and i was allowed inside and i was back within one hour.The same thing my sister did last month and even for that there is a big queue and she was told to stand in the line before 5.00 in the morning.What she did is she went to a broker paid Rs.1000 extra and got passport within one month.

Even after fight of Anna Hazare the corruption in India cannot be eradicated.I hope his fight won't go wasted.......

Sandhya said...

UmaS: Yes, Uma! I still remember how I was going from table to table for getting my ration card for two whole days, nearly 15 years back! I can still feel the humiliation by the clerks.

Here, even senior citizens and for just renewal, people are asked to come in person. I don't understand!


Ugich Konitari: Remember to take a light weight folding chair too! It was very difficult to get chairs and all of us were playing musical chairs. Some old men were sweating so much that we were worried a bit about them.

Monsoon? I can imagine your plight, Ugich! Thank god, here, it drizzled a bit, that is all!

They should find some easy method at least for renewals, I feel.


Renu: Yes, getting 'Indian visa' is worst!


Deepa: Yes, Deepa! We didn't have much problem while getting the US visa. Everything was systematic. But getting UK visa, as Renu said, is difficult. You know what, they asked us to submit the application alongwith the original documents...FD receipts, House documents etc.! And they said that it will take one week to 10 days to process the visa! Who will take responsibility,if they lose the receipts? My husband just gave the xerox and showed the originals and said that if they think that the copies were not enough, he didn't want a visa and the clerk took the form cursing us under his breath! It was sort of a call centre, the staff were just doing the work as per 'rules'!

My son had an 'appointment' at 10 am but he came out from the office at 4 pm!


Roshmi Sinha: Howdu, Roshmi, yellaa kadeyalloo 'adjust' maadkobeku, naavu!


Varunavi: The whole world is praising us for conducting the election so smoothly for such a huge population, I don't know why these small problems are not solved. Basic problem is, the population has increased and nearly everyone opt for passport now and they follow the same system they did 50 years back! We are supposed to be computer experts but here, it is not used properly!

We will get the passport within a month but for submission, we have to take so much trouble!

Bikramjit said...

Yes I have been through the ordeal of getting my mothers passport renewed, My dad passed away and I wanted to bring my mum along with me to UK, but the passport was about to expire so we wanted it renewed and I cant beleive how sad it is to get one renewed.
The police verification, the paper work required I mean WHY, As you said it took a whole day to get the form submitted and still it took weeks to come, In the end My mum had to come alone.

Here in UK I jsut POST the passport and on the 5th day you get it back.

Tata consultacy will take over dont know how that would help, end of the day they have to have manual input.

People taking advantage outside the office one guy asked for 1000/- to get all done , another said he can get it done, the photo copy man outside the passport office could help.
The sad point was the pushing the jostling of the people and the ones who came with CHITS of some VIP to go forwards ...

I generally get very angry at such incidents so when i asked a guy a Nice good loking police officer comes and asks me whats my problem, If i dont have a CHIT like that I should stand in the QUE and mind my own business.. In the end I had to call my Friends Dad who was the DIG police then and you should have seen this Police officer running all around to the point of getting water for my mum.

so thats how things work ..
I hope you got the Passport done :)

Bikram's

Sandhya said...

Bikram: I have seen this in this same passport office...people coming with papers to get the work done, Bikram! Not now,but when I went with my friend because she was a Maharashtrian and her Tamil or English was not so good and she had heard a number of stories about our govt. offices. The staff kept on talking over the phone...chatting, literally and when it was over, he was shouting at us asking why we are standing in front of his table like buffellows! When my friend understood the meaning she was nearly crying.

Many men kept roaming here in this office too looking for bakraas!

It is very bad that your mom had to come there alone. They don't respect age also. Only money or 'chit' from higher ups, speaks!

It will take a month for our passports to come! Happy that we need not go there again for the next 10 years!

radha said...

I went three years ago to the passport office and came running back. Fortunately I found the local post office was accepting the forms and that was not too bad at all. Some have luck filling it online, whenever I tried the page would disappear!! Can breathe easy for a few more years and hope the process is simplified by then.

sm said...

yes we need to change the system and working of system.
system make us give the bribe.

Destination Infinity said...

Improving the efficiency of services is a neglected activity in our Government offices. But one has to take in to consideration the plight of the people working in such offices as well. Imagine people shouting at you, or you shouting at people all day!

Destination Infinity

Sandhya said...

radha: You are lucky, Radha! We tried doing it but could not and as I wrote in my post, somebody lost everything during transit. It is a huge risk.


sm: Yes, the whole system should change, sm.


Destination Infinity: I have written how polite the staff were, even after handling hundreds of people every day. They are really great. I don't know why they have not started using computer properly.

Ragee said...

i had applied for my new passport 5 months before ..still i did not get my passport .... i am form Mangalore karnataka ...i already got job form singapore ....they waited 3 months ...now i lost my job....i don't know what this government doing....even every karnataka state, there is passport sheva kentra ....but no use ....all the government staffs were not doing their job....i don't know when india going to change....i am hoping that may be i will get my passport within 1 year...

Sandhya said...

Ragee: I am very sorry to hear this, Ragee, esp. to hear that you lost the job because of the govt.'s lethargy.

They are using computers which should have facilitated them, if used properly! I got my passport last week but my husband's has not yet come. It is two months since we had applied for 'renewal'...this is not even a new passport!

I really feel bad reading your mail, Ragee! Don't know what type of advice I can give, nothing works!

Zephyr said...

In the same year when you have written this post, my husband had got his passport renewed two years after it had lapsed. This was in 2011 in Delhi and everything was done online, with an appointment fixed and the whole thing was completed in half an hour! No birbe, nothing whatsoever. Last year, we transferred the address to Mumbai and it was even faster. In fact, they issued the passport in two days and completed the verification in 3 weeks. We got an sms from the police station to come with all documents and the work was over in 15 minutes. I think it would be the same in Chennai too, now.

Sandhya said...

ZEPHYR: Happy to hear this! We have to renew in 2018! Hope it is going to be easy. Even changing address in ration card used to be tough but this time while changing to the current address, it was very easy! Computer is improving the quality of their work, I think.

Usha Basker said...

I remember to have taken appointment first time thru online. So standing in queue avoided. But waiting in counter and running for some more documents couldn't be avoided. We r due next year for renewal of our passports. Ur posting is little threatening to me becos now I can't stand for long time due to my knee problem. Previous visit I didn't had much health issues and was little young to run around and wait.

Sandhya said...

USHA BASKER: Don't worry, Usha. It is not as tough as before and you are just going to renew it. I think you can do it online too! Check it up. We too have to do it in a couple of months!

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