The district Suwidha Centre appears to be dominated by touts as residents claim harassment at the hands of these middlemen and agents who charge anywhere between Rs. 10-2500 to avail of services.
The HT team visited the centre and found illiterate applicants at the mercy of agents, who charged Rs. 50-150 to help in procuring documents, as there were no help desks to guide them.
Som Nath, a pensioner, told HT that an agent had asked him to pay Rs. 150 over and above the Rs. 50 he had already paid him to get a caste certificate while his monthly pension was only Rs. 250.
Former vice-president of Sirhind municipal council Devinder Kumar Bhatt had complained about the issue of agents to the deputy commissioner.
Saying that file covers were sold for Rs. 10 while the market price was `6, Bhatt alleged that Madan Puri, a Sirhind resident, was asked to pay Rs. 100 to get application forms for birth certificates for two children, which are otherwise available for a nominal fee.
While visiting the Suwidha Centre, Fatehgarh Sahib MLA Kuljeet Singh Nagra said parents of a newly married couple informed that they had been made to wait outside the office the whole day to get the marriage registered.
Alleging that the centre had turned into a "hurdle centre", Nagra said that innocent people, especially illiterates, falling prey to touts had to be checked.
However, Suwidha centre in charge Dinesh Kumar said that government-approved rates were only being charged although RTI application, registration of travel agents and ticket agents and aadhaar card services were free of cost.
On the issue of overpriced file covers, Kumar said it was not mandatory to buy them at those rates however the consumers were advised to buy one carry their documents in. He said the heavy rush did not permit them fill out forms for those in need.
However, deputy commissioner Arun Sekhri said a board outlining fee amounts for different documents had been fixed in the centre and they were also periodically watching out for such touts