Monday, 11 July 2011

The Great Indian Passport Dilemma...!!!

Every Indian has a story to tell in respect of his passport application. I, for one, have had one of the longest experience to obtain it. Close to two years of effort & I just feel the excitement of holding this heavenly document in my hand with my name subscribed in it. After going through a sea of processes not just in respect of the application but a lot many things as well, I get mixed feelings when I remember everything that has been happening over the years. If the process has been so challenging for someone like me, one can guess what others might have been going through. This is perhaps the reason why smart people have entered into the Indian Passport Business where the rewards are lucrative (lucrative beyond imaginations)

It all began on August 2009 when something went into my brain and I wanted to get a passport. I spoke to a few of my friends and we started the journey. We visited the Head Post Office in Hubli and got the application forms and the necessary information in order to apply for the same. On 27th of this month, we landed into the HPO and submitted our application for the passport. We paid the fees and came out with excitement

In the next 4-5 weeks, the processes began. One of the most important process was the police verification. In my case, there was a need for 2 police verifications as there was a change in my address. Everything went on and in a few weeks, I sensed that there was some problem with my application. In the meanwhile, I got a call from my friend who had applied along with me telling me that the passport had already come. This added certainty to my doubt that things were not in good shape for me

I started shooting emails, letters, faxes, calls to the RPO in Bangalore and the response was as cold as an iceberg. Somehow, I was able to connect to them and I learnt that as I was now living in Hyderabad, they are unable to process my application. In fact, I got a job and moved to Hyderabad after applying for the passport. I was asked to send fresh police verification forms. I sent them with necessary documents. And then, my file was transferred to RPO Hyderabad. I tried everything on the earth to connect to RPO Hyderabad including personally visiting the office. Having had almost a negligible kind of response and being frustrated for the same, I wrote to the Prime Minister of India. No, there is no problem with your eyes. You read it right. I wrote to the Prime Minister of India. Fortunately, there was some response that came and I got a call from the RPO Hyderabad telling me that it is better if I apply afresh to RPO Hyderabad. I agreed and the file was closed. I logged to the RPO Hyderabad website and booked a slot for me a couple of times but the busy schedule that I was running in Hyderabad did not allow me to go and apply for the same. Further, I was also certain of moving to Hubli/Bangalore in a few months and I thought it wise to wait rather than complicate things

The passport rules say that there shall be an address verification at all the places where the applicant has resided in the last 1 year. And someone like me would so many addresses in 1 year that it would be a little difficult for oneself to track. In fact, after completing BCom in Hubli, I was in Bangalore for 3-4 months as I was doing my PGDBO course from IFBI. During my stay, I spent time in 2 paying guests and one of my friend's home. After that, I returned to Hubli and stayed for a couple of months. And then, I moved to Hyderabad where I stayed in a paying guest for a couple of months. Later, I moved into a rented home with a couple of my friends. Now, if I had to apply for a passport with a honest disclosure, the police would have to verify my address at close to 10 places. Horrifying. This a lesson for all those planning to get a passport to ensure that they apply for it when they are in the college and not wait till the career run actually begins. Authorities find it difficult to catch things that are running

After Hyderabad, I returned to Hubli. I stayed in Hubli for a few months. And then, I moved back to Namma Bengaluru. I decided that I am going to stay over for a year and apply for a passport. During this period, I ensured that my name is updated uniformly across all the documents. I also ensured that even my parents name is spelled correctly in all the documents. I finished a year of stay and decided to apply. And in a few days, it was decided that I am going in for a new job and coincidentally, my father got transferred to Bengaluru and we decided to rent a home for the family at a different place. Thus, my address changed. Now, I had to wait for a year's stay to be completed at the new location or apply disclosing both the addresses and complicate things like I did in 2009. In fact, in 2009, most people suggested me not to be honest and say that I stayed in the same address for a year. However, I continued to follow that Honesty is the best Policy. I spoke the truth and lost time, money, energy and for a moment perhaps, I thought, 'sometimes, its better to lie'

Soon, I was in the system again. I got all my documents ready and started the process of applying for the Indian Passport. By now, TCS had implemented the PSK (Passport Seva Kendra) system in Bengaluru and all applications had to be routed through the web portal www.passportindia.gov.in . I logged on to the site and to my utter dismay, nothing happened. I was neither able to book a slot nor able to know when would the slots be available. I started searching the net for information regarding the same and found that the booking slots were for sale for Rs 500, Rs 1000, Rs 2500, Rs 5000 and so on. I did not understand the logic but then I did call an agent who had posted an ad stating that he provides assistance in applying for passports and also sets up online appointments. He quoted me Rs 4700 for an ordinary passport application. I wanted to apply for a Tatkal passport and he said that I will have to pay an additional Rs 1500. Thus, the cost of an Indian Passport worked out at Rs 6200. However, this was not the final figure. The agent told me that it was my responsibility to arrange for a Verification Certificate from a gazetted officer (in positions mentioned by the Passport authorities). I was baffled. I contacted another agent. He had a simple quote, '7th day, you get passport. All I do. You give markscard and bank statement. Give money after getting passport'. I was like, "Wowiiieee...!!!, how much?"

'Rs 12000', he said

I went mad and told him, "I am not in a hurry. You can take your own time and provide me the passport. What is the best quote?"

"For all same. I don't make less. For IAS officer letter only costly. Half money there only go. Nothing left for me. You requesting so I make 11000. Last & Best", he said

I was kind of confused and I said that I will get back to him later and closed the call. For the next few weeks, I almost forgot about it. Applying for a passport was like throwing myself into a well knowing very well that I can't swim. I read a news article that there were a lot of complaints against the online appointment system and the issue was escalating. Finally, PSKs announced that the proper services will be resumed latest by June 15th. I had lost the interest. However, I logged on to the site out of curiosity. And to my surprise, this time, I was logged out with a successful appointment on 23rd. I was delighted. I started arranging the documents. Things were haphazard. It took time and I understood that I can not do the same in a day. I logged to the site next day, cancelled my appointment and booked an appointment on 24th. I spent a day to arrange the documents and get a verification certificate (for tatkal passport) as well as a standard affidavit declaration

The D Day came. My appointment was at 9.45 am and I was there by 9 am. At exactly 9.45 am, we were let in. My documents were examined at the 1st counter and the examiner found that father's name in my 10th marks card is Ramachandra M Pattar. However, in the standard affidavit, I had entered it as Ramachandra Pattar. And just for the alphabet 'M', I was not given a token to proceed further. Do I need to say how I felt and what I thought?
I showed them my father's voter ID card where his name was Ramachandra Pattar. However, they told me that all names shall be taken as per 10th marks card only. So, all the prospects of PSKs, this is your second and most important lesson. Enter names at all places in all documents as per your 10th marks card only. I don't know what exactly is the process under a normal passport application. But, in tatkal, the 10th marks card rules. It rules beyond anything. Even the 12th marks or degree certificates are trash before it. In fact, you are not even asked for that

I had to leave the PSK and go back to get the affidavit corrected. I had to drive back more than 25 kms in this never ending city to get the correction done. Even the notary too was kind of shocked to know that an alphabet can make such a big difference. Sometimes, I feel, though the law has been made very tough, it is neither helpful in stopping crime nor does it in any way add to convenience. There are so many issues that happen in respect of names and spellings considering that the people entering our names into the records are not sufficiently serious about the implication of the spelling and we accept the chalta hai attitude. Birth certificate has one name, 10th marks card has another, voter id card is bound to have the funniest spelling of all the spellings that your name has seen and all these differences make 5 persons out of 1 person. Though you have one body, one soul & you want one passport, your 5 documents can not help you. Lets hope that Mr. Nilekani's UIDAI Aadhar will solve these issues. But then, solution or a new problem, we shall know it only after experiencing it

I drove back to the PSK by noon and was let in. The initial verification was done and I was issued a token. I went ahead to wait for my turn at Counter A - Scanning. I was so hungry. I opened the lunch box, sat in a corner and had my food. It took some time. Soon, my turn came. The scanning process was completed and then, I moved to the Counter B & C where there was a verification and re-verification of my application. There was a small issue about my application. I had previously applied for a passport and the same was not processed due to certain delays at my end. After applying, I had been out of my city for a long time and in the process, I could not attend the police verification. As I had nothing very urgent or important at that point of time, I did not take it seriously and things went haywire. In fact, I had boldly disclosed that I had previously applied and even provided the application details. It was a little troublesome and initially I felt like I am digging my own grave but then, I guess, the officers were happy to see my honesty. It them some time to go through the previous application and letter received by me 2 years back but it was clean & clear process for me. After being satisfied that I was a genuine applicant, the APO click the Grant Passport button on his computer screen and made me a successful sailor in The Great Indian Passport Dilemma...!!!

The only concern that I had was about my photograph. I was carrying very nice passport size photographs with me so that I look nice in this document. However, despite all request, I was told that there is no way they can use any photograph. Your photo will be clicked in Counter A during scanning and that pic only will appear on the passport. I had not even shaved and was looking very shabby. Now, I have to carry this terribly looking face for the next 10 years. So, the next lesson, please ensure you get carry smart looks to the PSK as you will have to be with this look for the next 10 years

I moved to the exit counter where I was given an acknowledgement. I was also told that I shall receive the passport within a week and I really did receive it. I find it difficult to believe it even now that things happened so quick

There are, of course, many many stories, facts and experiences in relation to the same which I can not disclose for security, privacy and other reasons. Overall, it was a fantastic experience. Some of the most mind boggling times of my life were spent over this. If I seriously see, I can be a case study for the Indian Passport Applications

3 comments:

  1. brillant piece of information, I had come to know about your web-page  from my friend hardkik, chennai,i have read atleast 9 posts of yours by now, and let me tell you, your webpage gives the best and the most interesting information. This is just the kind of information that i had been looking for, i'm already your rss reader now and i would regularly watch out for the new posts, once again hats off to you! Thanx a million once again, Regards, Tatkal Passport Hyderabad

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    Replies
    1. Hi Bharath, thank you for your kind words. I'm glad you liked reading the post. Hope it will benefit others as well ;)

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  2. How to apply for closure of passport Application?
    My police verification for passport is failed so i want to close the previous one and apply for fresh from my current address

    ReplyDelete