24 Jun 2015

Chintu Cannot Travel: I have an Indian Passport and it is an achievement.
I wrote a few month ago about my ordeal with passport authorities, and I promised I'd write about it, but then I didn't know that it would take so long for me to get my passport. If you haven't read the first part(Scene 1-4) yet, do read it here.

Scene 5.

I had to go to the passport office again, to submit a response to the show cause notice which said I wasn't a citizen of India.  I saw the dreaded queue again, I had started from home at 5:30 AM in the morning and was in the queue at around 6:15 AM.  To my surprise most people in the queue had the same issue, they all weren't citizens of India, and had a story similar to mine, some received the letter because they gave a bribe lesser than what was asked, I felt better that at least I didn't pay anything, there is rampant corruption outside the office, there are shady agents who contact you and say that they would get your work done faster,  some even asked for money to get you inside quicker, I saw a lady who was standing a few person ahead of me in the seemingly endless line , come out of the office within 15 minutes of the starting time, while I was still miles away from entering.

This all could easily be solved with a token based system, or a system where you submit your response online, but then that approach isn't very bribe friendly.

Scene 6.

It took me approx 6 hours of standing in a queue to get inside the passport office, 6 hours! Add 40 more minutes to it and I can reach Bhubaneswar from Howrah in the Shatabdi Express. I thought everything would move faster now, but alas, I  was given a paper by the guard with a scribble that looked like a number and I was asked to sit, I sat for another couple of hours, and then there was Lunch Break, add half an hour to the last couple of hours. and then I had to stand in 3 other queues to get to meet the Passport Officer. The person surprisingly was friendly( or maybe I was cynical to not notice anyone else's friendliness after all the standing and waiting), I told him my ordeal, the cop asked for a bribe, I didn't pay. I received this letter. He said this problem is mainly because of West Bengal having an international border with Bangladesh, place of birth verification is mandatory and is required to establish citizenship by birth, which can be done by the police officer in West Bengal himself by looking at the documents, but then this is a rampant thing in West Bengal, most people I queued with had the same issue, some of them were born in another district hence the citizenship issue. This clause of establishing citizenship by birth is misused by the cops. He sent my application for place-of -birth verification to town I was born in, far away in Rajasthan. Where I had last lived in when I was 3.

Scene 7.

3 Weeks after the above scene I received a call from the cop in Rajasthan, he said there was a request for police verification for my passport application. because of my entire ordeal with cops and passport I decided to record the conversation. and you can hear the entire conversation on the following soundcloud playlist The audio is in Hindi and Marwari, and might need some translation, but if you know hindi well, you'd easily understand marwari too. But since the entire conversation is more than a 15 minutes, I'll give a basic summary of it.

Day 1:

Cop: Hi, I have received a request for passport verification.
Me: Yes, you were supposed to receive it.
Cop: Please bring all your documents to me.
Me: I don't stay in Rajasthan, it is not possible for me to bring the documents.
Cop: Then is there someone from your family here? A male member preferably.
Me: I have an aunt, no male member is there, she can submit the duplicates duplicates and the originals I have there.
Cop: Is there no Male member here? I'll need your signature too.
Me: Nope. No male member. You don't need my signature. I have talked about this too the passport official, my representative can help in the verification, I don't need to be there.
Cop: Okay, ask her to come to me.
Me: Okay.

Day 2

Cop: You aunt didn't come.
Me: She'll come today.
Cop: Give her my number and tell her to talk to me.
Me: Okay.

My aunt asked him to come collect the documents from home, as he had a bike and she had medical issues.

Day 3:

Cop: The documents are all okay, but there is some issue.
*He say to my aunt about money, approximately 4000*
Aunt: He is asking for money.
Me: Give him the phone.
Me to the Cop: Why do you need money? All my documents are in order. I won't pay any money, if you want to send an incorrect report, do it. I'll file an rti and find out why my report was incorrect even after having all correct documents and if I find any discrepancies, I'll make sure the person who is responsible is brought to justice, in this case you.
*He gives the phone to my aunt and leaves the place with the documents*

I receive a call from him again.

Cop: Sir, you should stay calm, I wasn't asking for a bribe.
Me: Then what was the money about?
Cop: forget the money, I'll need an affidavit from your aunt saying that she is you relative.
Me: Okay, I'll get it done.
Cop: I need it today.
Me: It's not possible today, it's Saturday and her lawyer is out of town.
Cop: I know a lawyer, he'll get it done.
Me: I'll talk to my aunt, and see what she says.

My aunt said that she didn't trust the cops lawyer, I called him up and told him that he'll get the affidavit by Monday. I received a call from him again in the evening and he said that he has sent the report and should be delivered, and then some pleasantries with lot of euphemisms were exchanged.

Scene 8:

It had been two months since I talked to the cop, I called him up in between too, he said he had sent the correct report, but my passport application had no updates. I remembered I had taken to twitter my plea, on suggestion from a friend. I followed up on that conversation again. (read it here):


After a couple month long twitter conversation with multiple people from the ministry of external affairs, I one day received an SMS alert that my place of birth was verified and my passport was sent for printing. I was elated.

Scene 9:

I had plans of going to Bangalore, and only a couple of day before my scheduled departure I received an alert that my passport has been dispatched via speed post, and  I had to be present there to take the passport, or I'd have to go the post office within the next 7 days and collect the passport or it would be sent back to the passport office and then a repeat of scene 5 above. I decided to take a leave for the next two days and rushed to Kolkata from the very first train in the morning, though still with a probability that the speed post won't be speedy enough to reach me within next couple of days.

Luckily it was speedier than I expected. I had my passport in hand after more than 6 months after applying. I've never felt more relieved before, I have to renew my passport after 10 years, I hope to finish the pages before that happens because ChintuTravels :)