City’s leading advertising professional Nilesh Talwar (name changed) is a happy man now, contented with the feeling of flying abroad swiftly to enjoy his vacation all over. And the reason for his delight lies in the fact that he had received his passport before it gets too late. So what, if he had to take the way other than what is officially prescribed, and also to shell out ‘considerably extra’ bucks to greet the twist in his sorrow tale.
The story began about one and a half month ago when Nilesh was looking forward to get his passport renewed as he had to book the tickets for a family vacation abroad. It was the changed scenario compared to what he did last time. Now online submission is required. Being an internet savvy, he delightfully filled the online application but hey, he failed to submit. Some technical error or complexities, was beyond Nilesh’s understanding. He then called up his travel agent who tried his ‘means’ to get the form submitted and eureka!! It happened. The concerned agent charged Rs 500 from him for this petty task. Nilesh blamed it upon himself for not knowing the things or for unclear explanation furnished to go for online submission. Whatever it was, Nilesh was happy to have his form filled up. Since he was requiring it urgently he opted for urgent service (tatkal seva) which officially required him to pay Rs 3500 and maximum period for delivery is 15 days.
November 1 was the date of presentation chosen by Nilesh in his application. Now the Passport Documentation work is outsourced to Tata Consultancy Services, the office of which is situated near Pagalkhana Square behind the indoor sports stadium on Chhindwara road.
That was the fine Thursday morning when Nilesh entered plush TCS office and overwhelmed by the technological progression made during these years in passport issuing section. Certainly, he was confident of getting speedy services, not knowing that the moment he would approach the concerned counter, some more surprises would be showered upon him. Unlike in the normal procedure, the customary verification has to be submitted at the time in urgent case and that too from the collector’s office, not from the police. Nilesh kept wondering as to how he could get the verification done himself. Also nothing was specified online in this regard when he got his application submitted under urgent option. Nilesh argued for the lack the information but to no avail.
Before the argument could stretch, an agent appeared as an ‘avatar’ and asked Nilesh if he require his ‘help’. Helplessly, Nilesh had to seek his help as where could he go then? The agent asked him to change the application to normal from urgent and leave the rest to him. The shifting required a small format to be submitted at the counter. The form costs Rs 1.50 which is usually rounded off to Rs 2, thanks to ‘no change’.
Nilesh met his first disappointment at the plush office but what added to his dismay was a display in the office which read out that the agents are not permitted to enter the office. He kept guessing about how the agent would have got in and daringly approached him.
Outside the office, the agent then disclosed his fee which went up to Rs 5000, which is more than three times the normal fee of Rs 1500, under which his application was shifted. The charge was even more than the tatkal fee of Rs 3500, but this was the agent’s fee anyhow, so Nilesh had to relent. However, the agent assured Nilesh of providing all the services at his doorstep which he fantastically did, including the verification.
He promised the delivery within 15 days but it took well over a month to get the task done. However some very interesting things happened during the entire course.
Before proceeding further with the story, let’s have a glance at the official rules and regulations. In normal process the official period for delivery is prescribed as 45-60 days. The form goes to local area police station under which the applicant’s address falls. The applicant is then called at the police station for verification. Thereafter, the police send back the form to the passport office, and it is after that the passport is dispatched to the applicant’s address.
In tatkal process, the verification needs to be done by the applicant itself from the collector’s office. The ‘talhati’ there takes the procedure forward and get the collector’s seal and signature on the verification form. Going by the everyday crowd at Setu, as is collector’s office named in Nagpur, it normally takes 2-3 weeks to complete the process. Only after this tiresome verification, tatkal process starts, the maximum period of which is said to be around 15 days. However, if the time goes into verification is added to it, the entire process takes around 2 months which prompts the users to go for normal process.
Now since Nilesh had opted for agent’s way of process, only thing he had to do was to keep his pocket open to all the visitors coming to his service.
In his case, the letter of verification, instead of reaching the Dhantoli police station, reached directly to the agent. Nilesh did not even have to go to the police station. He got the call from agent and only after he confirmed about his convenience, the agent’s person came along with a cop in civil uniform and asked Nilesh to come at Lokmat Square near his office. Nilesh’s verification was done on the road instead of police station or his home. After going through a very short question-answer round, Nilesh was asked to cough up a 500 rupee note to the concerned policemen. He then took Nilesh’s signature on a form and left with the ‘smart earned’ money.
Ten days later, Nilesh received a courier at his office address in which he found his good passport. He was cheered that he could not take the ticketing process forward.
Now it was time for Nilesh to serve. Apart from Rs 500 which he gave away to the cop, the agent asked for his fee of Rs 5000. The spate of extra givings does not end here. He even had to pay more for the air tickets as the date of his journey approached closer and closer your book, more you pay.
Like Nilesh, another local guy Neeraj Kumar had to face the misery of different kind. He had to pay at the passport office to get it dispatched as his passport was lying ready at the office for over good one month.
So this is how passport proceeding work in Nagpur. Are the authorities watching?
(The story is a true life incidence and only names have been changed to protect the identity)