29 Jan 2015

Chintu Cannot Travel:  The Play of Passport issuance in India.
The thing with fuckups by people in power is that they make great blog posts.

During my backpacking trip this December, I met an Australian who was living in  New Zealand, and he had to stay in New Zealand for a few more months to get a Kiwi Passport, when I got to know this the first question I asked him was "Is that going to be a Lengthy procedure?", He gave me a puzzled look and replied "Nope, it's as easy as getting a library card", I smiled, It had been already a month and a half since I had applied for a passport, but was still waiting for it. Ironically, the same day I received an SMS alert from the Passport Office that "Police has submitted an adverse report ". 

Scene 1: The Application. 

I had an appointment with Passport Officials in Kolkata on November 14th, I had been preparing my documents for a long long time, I had heard many horror tales about passport issuance, my brother himself being a victim (his passport hasn't been issued yet, he had applied a year before me). I checked all my documents twice, I checked the each copy multiple times. I was so sure that it's not going to be a painful process for, I had all the things in the right place.  I was more nervous for the passport application than I ever was for a job application.  I reached the center on time, and got my token, the call came after an hour past the scheduled time. The first hurdle was the document verification, I went up to the counter, put all my documents on the table, the guy started checking my documents and in minutes he came up with, "You date of birth certificate isn't valid, you don't have a last-name in it, and it is in Hindi", Before I could speak a word, He wrote a number on a paper and told me to talk to the guy at the counter, I did as he said, no questions. The guy at the new counter was a passport official, I'd have to say he was friendly, I tried to explain it to him numerous times that it was made in the era when last names were assumed to be same as the parents, and my dad had his last name written. He didn't listen to any of that, I was asked to get an affidavit that basically said I was me. I did as he said, got an affidavit, went to the center next day, Got an all okay from four layers of verification. My Application was accepted.  I was happier than I got a job. But Wait, This was the smoothest phase! 

Scene 2: The Verification. 

I was told that the police verification would be initiated in 3 weeks. 3 Weeks passed, Nothing. 4 weeks passed. Nothing. In the fifth week I get a call, the guy on the other end says it is regarding police verification, I am asked to come to the police station. But wait, isn't the police supposed to come to my house for the verification, apparently yes, they are supposed to come to residence of the applicant and physically verify if they stay at the claimed current address, but my DIB(the official who is responsible for police verification) doesn't believe in that. (Also, I have my address in a lot of official documents for which I have already gone verification, so this physical verification technically makes no sense!). I arrive at the DIB office, and find it locked, I call the cop on the number from which he called me, he says he is busy, and would be there in an hour, I wait. two hours passed. I call again. He says he forgot about it and says he can't come today, I need to come again tomorrow.  I agree. The next day, I arrive, I meet the guy, he checks my documents, and says my reports will go to Rajasthan for verification because I was apparently born there. and he sheepishly put in the line, "Khorcha Korle ekhane hoye jabe" (Spend some money, it'll be done here). He quotes 5 thousand rupees as "expenses", I say I won't pay a rupee, I have my documents, he can send the report anywhere he wants for verification, he agrees, and doesn't look back up. 10 days later I received an SMS that "An adverse report has been filed by the police after verification"

Scene 3: The Search for reason in a never ending Queue.

The day after my backpacking trip ended, I went to the Regional Passport Office(RPO), I see a never ending queue there, some people have been standing in the queue since 4 AM in the morning, I ask the reason. They say the officials don't accept papers only between 10 AM and 12 PM, and since they check only one person at a time, only the hard working few who have the guts to start the queue at 4 AM in the morning can submit. For the ones with disposable cash, there is a backdoor entry. The people are rude, They never arrive at 10 AM, but go for lunch sharp at 2 PM.  I had to wait 4 hours in the queue for making a single query. "What is wrong with my police verification?" , to which I am told " We haven't received the hard copy of the report yet, come back again in 15 to 20 days.". I oblige. Thankfully, I am not required to go there because, I receive another SMS from the Seva Kendra, before the "15-20 days" pass by, it says "A show cause Notice is sent to you by post, also available on PSP website". I scan the complete website, I find no trace of the notice, except in status tracker which says the same thing as the SMS.

I was the last person in the queue, and it was still approx 500 meters to go.

Scene 4. The Notice.

Today, I received a notice from Speed post(which is apparently 14 days late), I won't write a lot about it, the image below says it all.  I am not a citizen of India because I lack a very important skill, bribing.

 Scene 5 Will be updated soon.