Sunday, May 12, 2013

Passport blues

My son's passport was to be renewed and that familiar sinking feeling was taking hold of me. The first step was to get a date at the passport office in Gurgaon. Thanks to a good travel agent in the family that was the least of my concerns.
I was told that you have to get all the documents ready. Since I was in a hurry and was willing to pay that little bit extra I was applying on Tatkal, the quickie passport service. But now came the first whammy. If you want your passport soon, get hold of a gazetted government official who would verify that the applicant was of good moral character. Does this make sense? A 12-year-old 8th grader needs an official who has never seen him to attest that he is of good moral character?
Be that as it may, we finally got that prized date at the passport office. A time that clashed with school timings. However, a helpful official agreed to let us come at 2.30 pm, just after school. The officials were helpful and courteous but as we waited first for an hour to receive the token, then the move through counters A, B and C with halls where there was grossly inadequate seating and weak air conditioning , I wondered how the officials kept their sanity. with the small snacks counter providing muffins and coffee as sustenance, harried applicants wound their way through the entire rigmarole waiting for their final letter informing that the process was over and all they need do now was wait for that passport to be delivered to their house in five working days. Small routines, but ones that make the life of an Indian citizen an endless challenge. Can this process ever get better? considering that the systems are managed by the country's eminent IT company TCS, can this process not be simplified? Can the halls in the passport office not be made bigger? Can the AC not work more efficiently? Can the citizen not have to wait for four hours for the process to conclude? 

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