Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Passport - Freedom of Movement

India has been making strides in reforming the most cumbersome of Government processes. At the forefront of this effort are the Income Tax, Election Commission and the Passport Authorities. Considering these affect almost the entire population, success in making these procedures hassle and corruption free will take us quite a few laps forward in the "Developed Nation" tag race.

In Bangalore, two changes have happened as regards the Passport procedure.

The first is outsourcing fresh passport application to something called the "Bangalore One" initiative. This is a public-private partnership with centres across the city. Their aim is to assist citizens of the locality in getting routine government works completed in a techno-savvy, comfortable and courteous surrounding. Typically, one can submit fresh passport application at BangaloreOne with a minimal queue (unlike the three hour wait at the RPO) and with polite, patient guidance from the agent sitting there. I would strongly recommend using their services.

The second has been shifting the Regional Passport Office (RPO) for Karnataka into a massive new building in Koramangala. The earlier passport office was a cramped space in the heart of Bangalore's MG Road. The new premises should help not only process the applications faster, but allow the process to become more transparent and hassle-free.

Of course, being Babus, they cannot help be themselves to some extent. For instance, the website does not give a location map or any landmarks for the new premises. The layout map, the instructions and other details still refer to the old office. The cryptic 'postal address' works only for those who already know the location!!

Then of course, there is the process itself, with its police report and list of documents. Even in the age of nomadic IT workers, the RPO is heavily tilted in favor of "ration-card holders". The alleged reason for making the process so cumbersome, is to prevent people from flying under the radar. As the Katara and Abu Salem cases show, those who need a fake passport can still get it pretty easy. All that these archaic procedures do is to introduce knots into a system, that unravel only with lubrication obtained from "well-versed" facilitators. Hasn't everyone--and i mean, barring no one-- received the police report after greasing the constable palms? This is valid even if you did your first poo poo in that house!!

My take is that while some sections of the bureaucracy are working to mitigate the ills, there are others who wish to retain secret trap doors for misusing the system. It is near impossible to prove misdeeds in such case and the Rs.200 bribe is cheaper than the hassles (and eventual victory) one might gain from protesting.

60 years after the success of Gandhi's freedom movement, freedom of movement still does not seem like a birthright.


beanstalk said...

Frankly - it helps to have an ex-passport officer as one's uncle. Helped me in every case. Hope these things don't change about India. What will RK Laxman scribble about?

Didn't know you were pregnant. Congrats...:)

Vidooshak said...

who is this, mera sabse loyal reader??

er... thanks for the congratulations.. but its my wife who's carrying. i'm only caring. and badly punning

helps to have an ex- something in every field in india. even for medical help, a friend as doctor is mandatory or they will not care at all. akkha india sirf Laxman ko khush rakhne ke liye aisi harkatein karta hai kya?


Faiyaz said...

Your first poo poo in that house!!! Beware......A great humorist is in the making.

Alok said...

Police verification? Not for me, I got my passport in college and it seems they had a soft spot for students at that time. Got it pretty quickly too.