Wednesday, 4 September 2013

The joy of visiting the passport office, atleast some things have changed for the better

The economy is in doldrums. Corruption in government offices and multi-crore scams have reached an unreal high. The rate at which the rupee is losing its International value and the illogicality of expecting another IT or BPO boom to rescue us has raised fears among many, including this reporter,  if we will go back in time by twenty years and life will be just as it was for our parents and grandparents who slogged all their adult lives merely to survive with three meals a day and some kind of roof over their head.

But those thoughts vanished instantly when this reporter made a recent visit to the Passport Seva Kendra (PSK) to apply for a reissue of an expired passport. The swank offices of the PSK and the courteous staff present there are a welcome change from the dreary days of standing in long queues at the Shastri Bhavan merely to buy a passport application form.

The staff, most of them young women outsourced by a private IT firm, are more than willing to help out applicants with their documents and silly queries with a pleasant smile.  If an applicant is missing a few self-attested copies of proof documents, a photocopier is located right next to these counters to get the job don and if you run out of cash, the ATM is there too.

Barring just two central government staff, one of whom is the passport issuing authority, all the persons one gets to interact during the process of getting a passport work for the private firm and are surprisingly courteous for a central government office.  The documents are scanned, identities are verified and one gets to know right at the counters if he or she will be getting a passport. Everything happens as per protocol with no hara kiri. Somethings have definitely changed for the good.

When this reporter went for his passport, he noticed only one instance when  a clear protocol was not strictly followed.  A young mother who had come to apply for her passport with an infant in hand was allowed to skip filling the Feedback Form that all applicants are expected to fill and submit before walking out of the office.

“Don’t keep that lady waiting with the child. This passport office is not going to close down if one woman does not fill the feed backback form  and submit to ministry of external affairs,” said a middle-aged woman sitting behind one of the counters to the reception staff. Ironically, she happened to be a central government officer.

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