One Day At The Passport Office

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There are two kinds of people I loathe. One, the ones who don't work and make money for themselves. Two, the ones who work but do not do their job properly. Our Indian Government offices are a perfect example of the latter. Yesterday was a day that I would never forget in my life. I missed going to office, did not complete the task I was expected to do in the interim, missed lunch, and then came back home with a deadly migraine.

A few days ago, my husband and I decided to get our passports renewed as it just a few months away from the expiry date. When we started off the process online, we were thrilled. All you had to do is create an account, download a PDF, update your data in it, save it in the format of an XML, upload it, make a payment and choose a time-slot for the verification of the documents at a nearest passport center. It was done in under ten minutes for each of us. We were impressed with how much the process has improved and thought that half the battle was won. Thankfully, both of us got the same time slot too, Monday 12.45 to 1 pm. Expecting it to be done quickly, both of us sent a mail to our respective work places saying that we would connect after 2 pm and left home by 10.30 to beat the traffic and make it on time.

We reached there by 11.15 and saw a long queue. Still, having made it ahead of time we thought that our work would get done quick as well. Boy, were we wrong or what! There were close to 200 odd people in the queue. We thought that people are going in based on their position in the queue. After standing for more than an hour the security guard comes in and asks the 11 am slot guys to walk in. The 11 am slot people were asked to walk in at 12.15 pm! Turns out, the queue did not matter and nor did the slot. After forty minutes, the 11.15 slot guys were asked to walk in. There was no system and the order did not make sense at all. By the time we were asked to walk in, it was 2.15. Our slot was at 12.45 and we got our turn at 2.15! Still, clinging on to hope and bearing the mountain of work in our minds we made it to the first counter. They checked our documents and verified it. Just to be safe, Cal and I had carried every possible proof with us. A copy and a original. Once all our documents were approved at the first counter and we got a token number, we took a breath of relief and imagined the rest to be a cakewalk.

We couldn't be more wrong.

After the initial verification, turns out there are three more rounds of verification. A, B and C counters they are called. My token number was 302 and Cal's was 310. The counters and the token numbers are displayed on the screen at the waiting hall and you should walk in to your respective counter. While the A counter got done pretty quick, the B counter was at token number 150. It was past 3 pm by then and we had given up hopes of going back home and connecting to work. After informing our colleagues that we'll not to be able to work for that day, we sat down to wait. We hadn't eaten lunch and we were exhausted. After munching on some small snacks available there, we just sat there doing nothing for a couple of hours awaiting our turn. Finally after 5 pm, the B counter displayed my number and I walked in to the allocated counter. The government official at the desk started looking at my documents like he was doing me a favor. My current address proof was a copy of the HR letter from my company. This was approved at the first two counters, but this man rejected it and asked me to come again. I showed him the original soft copy from my company on my phone and yet he marked my application as no address proof and asked me to come again next week with a hard copy of the HR letter.

After six hours of being cooped up in a same place, I was asked to come again and repeat the same charade a week later. Disappointment was too small a word for what I felt back then. When the first two counters check my documents earlier in the day, why didn't they tell me then that a soft copy was not enough? Aleast I could have gone back to work then. Hungry and battling a severe migraine, I sat back in the waiting hall for Cal to get done. Luckily after going back and forth for what seemed like a million copies of proofs, his application got approved. By the time we got out of that wretched place, it was past 6 pm. The slot given to us was from 12.45 to 1 pm and by the time we got done it was 6 pm and that too only one of us were able to submit it successfully.

I do agree that they were following the rules and they needed a hard copy of my address proof. Alright. But when did they take so long to let me know that? Four rounds of verification for the same set of documents is painful enough, the least the officials can do is be polite. This is the biggest problem I have with people working in a Government office. They do not know how to behave. Right from the security guard who kept yelling at the crowd when the miss was clearly from their end. Why give specified slots to people when you cannot keep it up? Instead it should have been a first come first serve basis. People with 11 am slots who came in at 1 pm went in directly because that was the slot going on at that time. The rest of us in the queue were left gaping at them like idiots!

The people seated at the counters are no less. They don't even look at your face and snatch the documents from your hand and browse through them. If any questions are to be asked, they ask it in their rudest tone while still not looking at you. Then, they throw back the documents at you. I understand that it is our need and we need them at that point. But it is their job to do that and they should do it well. Being rude doesn't help anybody. When the man at the B counter put my application on hold, I was not upset because of that. I was more upset because of the way he spoke. He was very rude and did not have the decency to talk to a woman. He just threw the application back at me and before I could ask what the issue was, he was calling the next applicant in with his index finger. Trust me, I wanted to stab him that very instant.

Government offices have always disappointed me. Right from the RTO to the passport office. It pains me that I have to go back there again. Sadly, I have no other choice.

Tell me, have you faced such issues before?

28 comments:

  1. Oh gosh! That's sad and sorry to hear that you will have to go again. Which center did you go? When I went, I had taken a day off and got done in 45 mins. It was so quick that I was pretty impressed. Later many people told me, it's the center that matters. Wish you luck the next time.

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    1. I went to the one in Marathalli. Sai Arcade. Worst experience ever.

      Lucky you!

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  2. Ok, I have to say you two got screwed big time. This is terrible! I had my passport renewed 3 years ago and I can promise you the whole procedure on a moderately busy day took me less than an hour. I know I can't compare Bangalore with a Tier 2 city but still, this kind of harassment and treatment would get anyone mad. Imagine elderly people waiting for a day and then getting rejected at the last counter?

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    1. Less than an hour? :(

      It's the people in those offices who make it more harder sadly. Lucky you I must say.

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  3. I had a hellish experience when I along with my daughter tried for her passport a couple of years back. After the present Government took over, from the news reports, I got the impression that things have changed to become more citizen friendly. But, from your article I get a different impression.

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    1. Sadly, the officials have remained the same. Harassment at its peak this was.

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  4. Oh boy! I have to tell you about my recent experience with the passport office. It was in the last week of Dec. Just a renewal for the younger son. Well nowhere on the site do they say that both parents need to come. Actually they expressly say that only one person can accompany the minor. So my husband went with my son. Like you they went much in advance but sadly all his computations were wrong. They dragged on and on till after lunch time and then they managed to get to A and B counters. Apparently some form was missing. The form was not there on their website either and the husband had taken every possible document he could think of. The form needed the signature of both parents. The Assistant RPO told him to come again the next day with me and gave a waiver to the minor as all his biometrics had been been. You can imagine the poor little fellow was angry and frustrated sitting for hours in the queue. The next day the appointment was for 9.30 and in her words: "You should be out within an hour." Both of us reached ahead of time. The security allowed us in after 9.30. We were called to the A counter after 10.30 because they were still pulling out our file. Grrr Anyhow, the lady at the A counter said we should have got the minor. We gave her an exasperated look. The receipt clearly mentioned that the minor was allowed waiver. Anyhow after making a face, she made us go to B counter. It took some time for our turn to come when they flagged the application saying that we need some other form. When we said that this form was mentioned on the website and checked yesterday as well, they just said the website was not updated. So well we got the form and filled it in and signed it. Then we moved to a long wait for counter C. I had to pee but waited not wanting to skip my turn which came after more than an hour. And the guy just took 1 minute and finished it. By the time we came out it was 1 pm. My foot 1 hour. After two days, the renewal was finally done. It is another story that the renewed passport reached us in two days. I hate these idiots. I should actually write a blog post. I know exactly what you went through and we can hardly do anything to change this.

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    1. Oh gosh this is no less than hell. People across all counters should maintain the same policy and not waste time. I'm sorry for your experience Rachna and I pity myself for having to drag myself back there again.

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  5. My husband faced a nightmare before coming to Bahrain bcoz of these stupid address proofs. We had to take the alternate route for anything to happen. Otherwise we could have never made it here. I don't understand why we don't employ more people when there is clearly a need.

    Passport is our most valuable item because of the nightmare we faced. So if there is a fire.. we know what we are taking with us!!!

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    1. Oh yeah! We need more counters with people who know what it is like to be polite. Now I know why people prefer to bribe agents and get their work done. Sigh, the things one has to go through to follow the legal route.

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  6. I went to bangalore post office to get a new passport since the current one pages had exhausted. It took me like 60 minutes flat roof get my work done.
    Sorry that you had to go through a gruelling day

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  7. Soumya, it took 18 months to renew my son's passport. I've lost count of the number of visits to the pp office and the harrassment we faced there, followed by our police department. The most horrible experience ever with the rudest staff that was insulting and hostile. I am dreading renewing mine next year. And in the midst of all this, we keep hearing that passports are made in 7 days with minimum documents. So disgusting and frustrating.

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    1. 18 months? Don't scare me now :(

      My husband already received his renewed passport. That took a week, so looks like the only pain is making the submission successfully. I'm already dreading the visit next week.

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  8. OMG! Certainly a day at the passport office- you tell the tale so lively so I couldnt help smiling--- but OMG - you have all my sympathy lovely lady ... what a system, and what a way to spend you day......

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    1. Thank you Eli, it feels nice to read your comment :)

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  9. You know what - you should tweet to Sushma Swaraj with the link to this post; Or your application number or something;
    I agree that things are changing, but sometimes crap like this fall through the crack. *No pun intended*

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    1. That's what I wanted to do. But address proofs are legal proofs right, so did not want to mess it up. If it doesn't work after the second visit I sure will.

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  10. Gosh !! This is terrible !
    It's not just the thought of losing a day ( not that it is any less important), but the behaviour we get to face, that puts us off so much. As you said, some people are really really insensitive in the way they behave. I can very well imagine that ' throwing the documents on your face' thing. The first thing is that we are not there for a favour; we are there for a genuine legal requirement, and it is their job to do it properly. And all that you get from them is hostility.
    I took my little one's passport from Malappuram in Kerala, the 15th day after her birth. Now what would you verify , for a baby who's barely out of her mom's womb, right ? Wrong. I had to take her to the office, get a token, wait for the turn, and then smudge her baby finger with ink and stamp it on the application. Taking her photograph was tougher, because she couldn't hold her head yet. Sigh ! The only reason why I took the PP then is that I had to process her VISA to return to the UAE the next month.

    All this, when there are 'people' roaming around with multiple PPs under all imaginable pseudonyms.

    As Sid has rightly said, bring this issue to Sushmaji's notice.

    I hope you get your PP done soon, dear. You have all those places to travel to :)

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    1. Ah poor poor you and lil P. These people seriously need to learn to behave.

      I hope so too! Oh yeah :)

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  11. This is terrible. I took a day off for passport application a couple of years ago and have to say my process was much better. It did take me 3 hours but the line was huge and few people did get special treatment, which irked me. But the job was done in a day at least.

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    1. Again, looks like you were one of those lucky ones.

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  12. Almost same thing happened for me. It took almost 1 week for me to submit the application. Do I actually need to tell you about how our govt. employees work? What I noticed is the officers in Counter A&B are from TCS (as most of the passport work is outsourced to TCS)and in counter C are our great government officials. These people in counter C behave like they are doing some big favor to us and as if they are giving something from their pocket. The time slots are followed properly here at all the regional passport offices in Hyderabad. But the process needs to be improved and the mindset of these govt. officers should change.

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    1. TCS yes. They were pretty decent. The government officials are not. They are cheap, vulgar and impolite. Argh, I can't believe I have to go back there again.

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  13. These Govt processes are designed to make you remember how hard it is to get things done in this country. That was complete torture you went through, Soumya. Here at the Indian Embassy we get things done in no time,the same should be in our own country too. High time these workflows are revisited.

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    1. Sadly yes. Gosh, I can't believe I have to subject myself to that torture again.

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  14. Ah well, you know my passport saga! So I am not going to repeat it here. It is important for organizations like these to keep updated websites and information on their site. The lack of procedural information at the PSK's is appalling. Though in my case the whole procedure took about two hours, at The PSK, what followed was a month of what will be? What you had to go through is really not acceptable and shouldn't be.

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    1. I know of the trouble ypu had to go through for S's passport. This was no less. Maybe we need more PSKs with more staff in them to ease the crowd.

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