The agony continues

Passport Woes

The agony continues

Bengalureans have long been complaining about the difficulties they face at the passport office, be it applying for a passport, renewal of an old passport or a changing of address in the passport. It’s not just the waiting that they are tired of, but the disorganisation and mismanagement at various levels.  

Pay a visit to the Passport Kendra Seva in Lalbagh and you can hear woes at length. To start with, applicants complain that they are unaware of the token number that is being processed due to lack of digital boards.

The security guard announces the token number just once and if the applicants miss it, they can only find out their turn by asking other applicants.

The office lacks an ATM outlet and a printer machine and these facilities are not available close by.

 The availability of only one photocopying machine and just one person working on it further delays the process. If people feel that an online application would bring in transparency, it is not quite so.

Mala (name changed), one of the applicants, says, “The server is always down though I’ve tried several times. I was forced to go through an agent who got an appointment in no time. I had to pay for something that I could have done at home.”

Lack of updated information on the website is another issue. “The last time I came for a renewal, the officers asked me to produce the rental agreement but this year, they are asking me for the bank statement. They keep changing the requirements. The grievance cell exists just for the sake of it. Our complaints are never taken seriously and the helpline does not function properly. To connect to an official itself is very difficult. We either have to ask other people for information or end up missing work on an another day and repeat the tedious procedure.”

Applicants are made to run from pillar to post to submit their documents and often face delays due to ineffective decision-making. Smitha (name changed) had a unpleasant experience when she visited the Lalbagh office for a change in address for herself and her family.

“We had four appointments for our family and my children’s appointment was before mine. So, when my daughter’s turn came, she had to wait for more than two hours as the parents’ passport had to be cleared first. When my husband’s turn came, they refused to issue the passport stating a flaw in the passport but none of the officials were clear on what the error was.

He was made to go from one counter to another to find out if there was an error. When the passport reached the Assistant Passport Officer, he said that there was no error in the document. He was helpful but unable to overrule the other official’s statement. After waiting for more than three hours, my husband was asked to get a form which said there is no flaw in the passport and signed by an officer.”

“Next day, when my husband came back to the passport office with his form, the officials told him that there was no error and that he needn’t have brought the form. We were frustrated as unnecessarily we had to run from one official to another. The officials themselves do not know the rules and are incapable of taking decisions. They are involved in all kinds of blame-game,” adds Smitha.  

The office also lacks separate queues to speed up the process and each batch approximately consists of 40 to 45 people, waiting for their turn. Siddhant, whose name went as Siddharth in the passport, waited for more than two hours, to get his name corrected.

“The staff is very irresponsible while issuing the passport. They are incapable of reproducing the information given in the documents. I had to pay the price for a mistake committed by them.”

Those accompanying the applicants face problems due to lack of drinking water and toilet facilities.

They also don’t get information about the status of the applicant once they go inside the office and often have to wait for long hours outside.

 Even the applicants who want to apply under ‘tatkal’ do not have it easy as it requires producing extra documents and verification letters.

Naila, who applied through ‘tatkal’, adds, “They ask for a lot of documents and
affidavits which are very difficult to obtain. They want a specimen verification certificate from an IAS officer or a VIP which is extremely difficult to obtain. Some even refuse to give the certificate. Despite this, I somehow managed to get the certificate and when I produced it, the officials rejected it saying that they wouldn’t accept that particular certificate. They should be more clear on these things. Now my passport is withheld and I have to travel this month itself due to an emergency.”

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