Anil Sharma

Tackling the Passport office in New Delhi

9.5 years after my passport was issued, it was time to get a fresh one so I spent 2 days to apply for one at the Regional Passport office located at Bhikaji Cama Place, New Delhi. Not only was I harassed, I felt betrayed, after paying so much taxes for so many years, why can’t I get decent service from the government ?
 
They CLAIM to have a website that has all the information,  https://passport.gov.in/delhi.html ,  to which I will refer to many times in this post as “the website”.  Through this guide, I hope to help people who are planning to visit this office to be well prepared. Here are some steps you should follow :
a. Before going to the passport office, take a leak. That’s right, take a leak. You will be there for 4 to 6 hours and they do NOT have loo’s you can use. Also remember to put on lots of deodorant, you will stand in long ques and congested rooms full of sweating people.
 
b. The website CLEARLY mentions that you can download an application form and use it to submit an application. The person at the token counter will CLEARLY tell you that it’s not acceptable. You have to buy a form worth Rs. 10 for which you need to stand in a que for 2 – 3 hours. Alternatively, touts outside the office building sell the form for Rs. 50. 
 
c. The procedure for submitting the application is very clear. Behind the entrance of the building are counters that offer ‘tokens’ that grant you access into the main building. There are 3 counters for issuing tokens, all open at 9:30 at sharp and are open till 12:30 p.m. One is for Tatkal applications, one for General and the third for special requests by existing passport holders, such as change of address etc.  While the counters open at 9:30, the que starts as early as 8 a.m. If you reach by 9:30, you can expect to be around the 50th to 75th person in the que.
 
d. The purpose of the ‘token’ counters is just to get a stamp on your application that will allow you entry into the main building. However, this is where your pain will start. The dumb person behind the counter will scrutinize your documents and tell you something is missing and throw you out of the line. Its not his business to do so, but he could do it. If you try to argue that you’ll get the documents before submitting the application, he doesn’t listen, he wants you to come back in the que after getting the document. If you argue that the said document is not required as per the application booklet or the website, he’ll shout at you and tell you not to waste his time.
 
e. If you fail to produce documents like Affidavits, photocopies, photos etc that prevent you from getting the token, do NOT worry. All these facilities are available there. In fact, they are customised for you. As soon as the person at the counter tells you your application has X or Y affidavit missing and throws you out of the que that you spent 2 hours waiting in, you will be surrounded by touts who will offer to make those documents in under 10 minutes. Document X which you could have made in Rs. 30 at a court, will now cost Rs. 250 here. Document Y could cost anything, from Rs. 300 to Rs. 1500, depends on your personality, the car you are seen in, the touts judgement of what you can pay, etc. Anyways, your document will be made.
 
f. After you’ve got the document, you need to get back in que to get the token stamped on your form. By getting a token at the counters, you are allowed access into the main building. Suppose your token number is 50, you have to wait in the main building till the number 50 shows up on one of the counters. 
 
g. When your turn comes at the counter, be prepared to push your way through the large crowd of people already standing there. Their applications have not been accepted due to flimsy reasons that they can’t understand so they’re standing there to see how yours gets accepted.  
 
h. If you have prepared ALL the required documents as per the official website, you can expect surprises when you reach there. They will ask for strange documents that are not required. They will not accept some of the documents you produce. I saw many instances of applications being rejected for frivolous reasons, here are some examples :

1) Website says as proof of residence, you can produce “water /telephone /electricity bill/statement of running bank account” , at the counter they will tell you that if any of these are from private companies, it’s not acceptable. Well, the government has privatised telephone, electricity, banks etc. and none of these documents are acceptable ?  If you mention the website, you’re anyways done. Do you not know that their website is not updated? It’s not their job to update the website – that’s their answer !
2) If you’re applying under Tatkal scheme, the application form says “The applicant also has the option to obtain a passport under Tatkal Scheme on submission of three documents from the Fourteen documents “..it clearly means any of the 3 documents out of a list of 14 will do. However, they will insist on submission of Verification Certificate signed by a senior govt officer even if you’re getting a passport renewed. That verification certificate is NOT part of the list of 14 documents.
i) By the time you’ve done understanding everything, the counters will shut at 1:30 p.m. You will be dazed and terrified at the thought of going through the whole process again when you come back with the rest of the papers. It’s best that you prepare yourself for this eventuality and take all of this with a smile. I had been warned of this, so I smiled at all the counter people and happily agreed to produce as many documents as they required the next time. I made them make a list of ALL the documents they wanted and went back two days later 🙂
 
j) So you think you’re smart and you’ve taken everything with a smile? Wait ! Two days later, their requirement of papers will change. When I went the first day, the person behind the counter had agreed on taking my gas connection papers as proof of residence. This time, my token number came at another counter and the person behind the counter refused to accept that document !! Dejected, I came out of the que and went and handed my papers to another counter. The person accepted the papers and found nothing wrong with them! How does this all work? If you can figure it out, I’m interested in knowing !
 
The whole aim of the people behind the counter at the passport office seems to be the following :
i) Get sadistic pleasure in harassing law abiding, tax paying citizens.
ii) Harass people till they go to touts, then make money off the touts. 
 
The same work that is done by the passport office is done by VFS http://www.vfsglobal.com  when they are processing Visa’s for many countries. The government should consider outsourcing the entire passport office operations to VFS like companies in India and sack the people who are handling things now.
Many of my friends ask why I went through this torture. I could easily have hired a passport consultant a.k.a tout to get all this done while sitting at home.  After all this effort, I’ve only submitted my application. I’m sure it’s not the end; I still have to get my new passport. 
I think it’s important to go through these experiences, you learn the value of good service and you learn how not to treat customers.

Posted via email from Anil Sharma

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