A queue. Many call it a “line”. In many cases, a line begins at a counter and goes on; sometimes around the corner till it gets back to the start.
There’s a line for everything. All lines look the same. In some lines, standing and waiting for your turn yields results, in others you waste your time.
At the Regional Passport Office at Bhikaji Cama Place, the line is different. Apart from the usual factors, there’s the bored, disinterested faces of the government officials manning the counters to contend with.
As far as work is concerned, Uttam Nagar resident Sakshi Tanwar (29) gives us the low-down: “Getting a passport is an impossible task here. If you have not done your homework you are bound to lost in the sea of people standing here.”
Tanwar has stood in line here four times in the past one-and-a-half years, but still hasn’t got her passport.
“For some reason or the other they keep sending my file back. Once the policeman came for verification. I was at work and couldn’t meet him, so he gave an adverse report. The file was sent back and I had to come and apply again. I can’t leave my job and come here every other day,” an exhausted Tanwar says. She had just spent four hours in a queue at the RPO.
On any given day thousands of applicants turn up at the passport centre, hoping that they’ll get their passport in a jiffy. But it’s not a simple give and take at the RPO. There are other conspiracies afoot.
“The man at the enquiry centre is of no use. He sends you to one counter. If you manage to reach there, you are sent to another counter. Amid all this running around from one counter to another, you suddenly see the counters empty and the sea of people turning around and leaving. It’s time for the office to close for the day,” says Rajkumar Achal, a resident of Satya Niketan in South Delhi. It took Achal, who runs a grocery store in Satya Niketan, two days to figure out the nitty-gritties of the passport centre.
Then he met a tout. And everything fell in place quickly.
“The tout took Rs 5,000 from me and I had my passport ready in 20 days. Had I gone through the proper route I don’t know how much time it would have taken,” said Achal.
When we met him, Achal had come to get his wife’s passport made. This time, however, he came with an appointment—one with his tout, outside the passport centre.
Interestingly, there is no check on the presence of such agents at the RPO.
One can find policemen patrolling the area but they turn a blind eye to the touts. “We pay a fixed amount to the policemen every month so they don’t interfere with our work. Once in many days, they conduct a raid, but we get to know of it and go underground,” says Raza, a tout.
Jt secy (CPV) and Chief passport officer, MEA
‘Proper action is taken against erring officials’
Applicants don’t get passports on time. They say there is red-tapism and officials at the RPO are reluctant to help.
As far as submission of forms and delays are concerned, we will soon introduce three new Passport Seva Kendras (PSK) in Delhi. These will eliminate many problems.
When will these PSKs start functioning in Delhi? How will they help ?
I wouldn’t like to give any timeframe, but it will be soon. The three centres will be spread over areas in the range of 15,000- 20,000 sq ft. Once an applicant has entered the PSK, he will get a token, a digital photograph of the applicant and his fingerprints will be taken at the time he submits the form. There would be no chances of harassment by the policemen who go for verification as the reports will be electronically connected.
Have you taken any action against erring officials?
There are many cases where stringent action has been taken. We investigate each complaint thoroughly and if it is found true, we take necessary actions. It has also led to dismissal of service.
ACP (Special branch)
‘Corruption is not a prevalent practice’
There are allegations that policemen ask for bribe when they go for verification.
It is not a prevalent practice and the cases might be an exception. We do take action against corrupt policemen.
Is any action taken against such corrupt policemen?
If someone has faced any such problem he or she can complain at the police headquarters and also at the vigilance department. Necessary action is taken.
Are verification checks for passports a strain on the police resources?
We get requests for around 1,700 police verification reports on a daily basis. We work in close coordination with the Ministry of External Affairs and complete the verification as soon as possible.