With reference to contact information at http://meaindia.nic.in, have sent the email below to ascpv.twitter AT gmail.com. CCed to jsxp AT mea.gov.in , usxps AT mea.gov.in . Link for information sent via twitter to @ForeignSecNRao , @VPrakashMea , @IndianDiplomacy @ASCPV.
I will update the article / the comments section if & when I get a reply from the ministry.
Date: 08 June 2011
From: Harshad Oak
The Minister Of External Affairs,
Room No – 152, A – Wing, Shastri Bhavan, New Delhi – 110001
Reference: Passport Number B5321069
Subject : Passport office & reissue process in Pune
I am writing this letter as a concerned citizen of India. In a time when India is emerging as a global power & your ministry is hard at work reaching out to the world, it is also important that the ministry does not forget the humble citizen & the basic yet critical services that your ministry provides to them.
My passport B5321069 expired on the 5th of April 2011. So to renew the same I applied online and was granted an appointment for 10am on the 13th of April. However, the process of actually submitting the form was so painful that I felt it my duty to write to you and not just forget the matter now that my job was done.
I reached the place at about 9.35am, a good 25 minutes before my scheduled appointment at 10am. I was shocked to find that there were already about 250-300 people in a serpentine queue at the ground outside the Pune passport office premises. To make matters worse, I learnt that everyone there had an online appointment for 10am on that day. Many had been in queue since 6am.
I expected that when the office opened at 10am, all of us would be let in and we would have proper seating and facilities inside the building. However a handful were let in and the rest were left to bake in the April sun.
And this lasted for hours & hours & hours….
It was a most distressing site. Seniors, children & even infants were suffering under the heat. Most had no water or food with them but could not step out of the line to get some. (I am aware that minors & infants need not themselves come to the office to submit, but most people do get them along, fearing govt. procedures & red tape.)
It took me about 3 hours 30 minutes in queue just to enter the building, following which I was in queue for another 1 hour 30 minutes inside the building. I would like to highlight that by “in queue” I mean “standing”. If even my legs hurt bad at that time, I shudder to think of how much suffering the seniors & children would have gone through.
It is certain that with the soaring summer temperatures & the rains to follow, sooner or later there will be a medical emergency at the Passport office Pune.
To add to people’s misery, either the checklist on the Passport office website are incorrect or the officers are not adhering to it.
I was asked for three things that were contrary to what the online checklist for reissue at http://passport.gov.in/cpv/checklist.htm says :
- I was asked to submit an address proof despite there being no change in address
- I was asked to produce the original marriage certificate when your checklist only says that one needs to submit a photocopy. There’s no mention of the original being required.
- The checklist says that only 1 photocopy of all documents was required but I was asked to submit two copies of all documents.
Fortunately, fearful of govt. offices, I had carried every document I had and multiple photocopies of everything. So I was well prepared. However there were many others who were being sent back after they had suffered for 4-5 hours.
Like most govt. establishments, service men, military men, etc.were jumping the queue.These things only add insult to injury for the common man.
My primary question is that why do people need to stand in queue for 4-5 hours if they have been given an appointment for a definite time? If the office can process X forms in say 10-11am, why are 100X appointments given for that time period?
I regret saying that currently there is absolutely no effort being made to serve the citizen or to make his life easier. What’s being done is the bare minimum that has to be done.
I am sure there would be some govt. rule or procedure somewhere by which the current processes can be justified. However 2011 is not really the time when bureaucracy can hide behind procedures, rules, etc. If there was a genuine will to serve and to not make fellow Indians suffer, I am sure things can be fixed in a weeks time.
I have read news reports in local dailies where the officials at the Pune passport office provide excuses of inadequate staff, procedures, a planned move to a new office, etc. However the fact is that 100s are suffering everyday. Action & redressal is required today!
I am sure the passport office has contact details of all the people who were at the Pune passport office on 13th April. Please do cross verify in case it seems that I am exaggerating.
- Issue appointments for specific timings & not the same timing for all. Only those with an appointment for that particular timing should be entertained.
- If x forms can be processed, only issue x appointments & not 100x. Compared to standing in queue for 5 hours, people wont mind getting an appointment next month.
- Senior citizens should be assisted immediately on arrival. Currently only after they have spent 3+ hours in the sun outside and only when they get inside the building, is there a separate queue for them.
- Proper covered seating & basic water, etc. facilities for all.
- State on the form itself that infants & children are not required to be present in person. Currently that information is hidden somewhere on your website.
- Strictly adhere to what’s stated in the checklist. No officer should ask for any document over and above what’s stated in the checklist. If he/she does that should be considered a serious violation.
- Basic supporting services like a photocopy machine, printer, Internet facility at the premises. Currently people have venture out on the road and hunt for these services.
My case was merely of a renewal / reissue and involved no change of name or address or anything for that matter, except maybe my photograph. So after the ordeal at the passport office I was hoping that at least I would not have to go through a police verification all over again.
However my hopes were shattered when two policemen turned up at my door and asked (effectively ordered) me to turn up at the station at a certain time with 8 odd different documents. The passport website is silent on this matter as to what documents are required so I had to rely on whatever list the policeman could remember.
I asked them why they needed all these documents, considering the website says nothing. The reply I got was that they were required due to the increased security checks. In today’s time, “security” is always a great excuse to cover up disorder.
I was even asked to produce letters & photo identities of my neighbours, when the police could have quite easily checked up that info when they visited my place.
I turned up at the police station, again armed with 10s of documents. I wasted about 90 minutes of my life waiting & later providing copies of various documents. Fortunately, the facilities at the police station were not inhumane as is the case with the passport office.
- If the police are meant to visit the applicants place for verification, why make the applicants visit the station at all?
- If the police station visit is required for some reason, the application should be able to choose an appointment at the station and not ordered to turn up at a certain time.
- The police men should hand over an official document with definite information on what the process is and what documents are required. The policeman verbally stating the process and providing whatever list of documents he/she can recall is not only improper but is also very likely to lead to malpractices.
- The need & process for police verification in cases of passport reissue needs to be revisited. If none of the information has changed, why ask for supporting documents for the same information all over again?
Despite all the pain, the positives of the entire process were a) I received my new passport a couple of days back b) At no stage was I asked for a bribe.
Hoping to hear from you and for prompt action in the matter.
PS: Supporting photographs attached.