It’s all started over a casual conversation with a friend about how to renew one’s passport. Whatever he said about the process sounded strange to me as I recollected the difficulties I faced to get one way-back in 2007. Unable to believe, I checked online for the new procedures as my passport was also due for renewal in the next couple of months.
I was also making plans with my travel mates about traveling abroad. Just in case that happened, the emigration seal would go off shortly as the passport renewal was round the corner. Making up my mind to renew the passport in advance, I applied online..The procedures were done with quickly. When it directed me to the payment gateway I confidently completed making the payment too and fixed the appointment for the very next day.
The game started!
As soon as I fixed the appointment, I got a confirmation SMS. Amazed with the growth in technology, I didn’t bother to take a print out of the appointment letter thinking that showing the SMS on my mob will do.
The next day I reached the passport office and saw a big queue. I walked to the security and enquired showing him the confirmation SMS. The first question he asked was – ‘Where is the printout?’ I replied that I didn’t have. He immediately redirected me to a shop opposite the office which was a so-called passport consultants’ office where I could get a printout of my appointment letter. When I walked to that office, understanding my urgency, the consultant charged me Rs.30 for a page printout. I came back to the passport office and showed the letter to the security and got inside. This letter is just to allow you inside and is of no use once you cross the security.
There was a long queue at the initial counter where they do a quick check of your documents and create a ticket number. From that counter you are allowed to move to the hall that contains 3 blocks ABC.
STEP 1: As soon as your ticket number gets displayed you need to meet the person whose table number is tagged in the display. I went to the concerned table and saw a girl who greeted me with a smile and asked me to take my seat. She took the documents from me and scanned them. She also clicked a photo of me, created a soft copy that contained all my documents and passed them on to the next section B. The entire process happening in Section A is being outsourced to and managed by TCS employees. So far so good which made me feel over-confident and I waited in the queue for Section B.
STEP 2: I saw 4 people whom I immediately realised were government officials if the way they were dressed was anything to go by. As the files reached them they called out the numbers randomly. My turn came and met the person. He was so clinical in the way he went about his work. He saw my file as renewal and asked for my existing passport. Glancing through the empty pages he probably was wondering why I needed a passport if I hadn’t traveled anywhere, but he stamped “Canceled” in all the pages of my old passport.
After that he started going through my documents. He asked me where I worked, which was not mentioned anywhere in the documents. When I told him that I worked in Chennai.. His immediate question was where was the proof? For a moment I was disconcerted. He immediately closed all my documents and wrote a remark ‘Closed the file’. Giving my documents back he told me to come with the required documents and moved on to the next person in the queue.
I was in a weird situation. I had lost the status on my existing passport and there was still tons of procedure for the new passport. I had already paid the fees too online. I came back home disheartened wondering how I was going to rectify the situation as I was a self-employed businessman. It was a sleepless night.
The next morning I just thought about it for a while. Who would certify me since I was the Proprietor of my own business. On an impulse, I hastily scribbled an address proof letter on my company’s letterhead and signed it myself. I took the letter and went to the passport office again.
I completed the process in STEP 1 and reached STEP 2. Feeling tensed I awaited my turn. Luckily it was a different person this time, a woman. The moment she opened my file, she asked for the address proof letter which I gave. She glanced at it and asked me to get it endorsed from STEP 1. I hurried back and got it done. I came back to STEP 2 and got it signed too. YES! It was approved too and I had cleared STEP 2.and moved to the queue of STEP 3
STEP 3: Here there was only one person sitting and it took a long time for my turn come. I sat there praying it should get done smoothly that day. On my name being called finally,I went to the concerned desk. The Emigration officer coolly verified all the documents and finally closed the file with a seal ‘Approved’ and signed it in the green ink.
I came out of the passport office relieved! Yes I had successfully finished the process! The police verification happened, following which on the 4th business day I got my renewed passport They have an online update system where each and every step that is happening is informed immediately via SMS.
However or whatever be the enhancement in technology, the attitude of government officers still remains frozen!
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