Though I have issued several tatkal recommendations in prescribed Form for known and deserving cases in the last several years, I was very apprehensive about going to the passport office myself for getting my passport reissued. Official passports always came without any hassle of visiting passport office and gave a lot privileges at International immigration desks. As the personal passport was due for expiry, I called up my travel agent for assistance. He said that the entire process is online and the passport office does not allow travel agents to do it for the applicants. That was happy news! But I was still apprehensive. How easy that could be?
I logged into the website of Passport Office to find out the latest procedure. As there was no immediate necessity for the passport, I had decided to apply through ordinary procedure rather than tatkal or through official channels. I wanted to experience how fast a citizen can get a passport in the ordinary course.
The details are clearly given in the website: how to apply, what is the fee, what are the documents required etc. After filling up a very simple Form online, an appointment should be taken for submission of original documents and finger printing. But my attempts to get a slot for appointment never materialized. No slots were vacant on any days I tried. One of my friends later told me that I should log in at 30 seconds past 6 pm on first few days of the month and that through using internet Explorer and not Chrome or Firefox. Too complicated, I felt.
As suggested by my friend, I went around 9 am to Passport Seva Kendra with the online acknowledgment sheet, and original and photocopy of a) Proof of Residence, b) Proof of identity, c) No Objection Certificate from the employer in prescribed format, d) existing passport, e) Surrender certificate of the official passport possessed by me and f) Rs 1500/- in cash for the fee. I stood in the queue which was fast moving. In the first counter, they ensured that I have brought all documents along with the photocopies. In case, anyone has forgotten to take the photocopy, there is a Xerox provider at the same spot. From there I had to go to counter A, B and C for further verification of documents, photographing, finger printing etc. Though there are hundreds of applicants, entire process has been streamlined through network and proper business process flow system. There is no confusion at all. Within about 90 miinutes I got the acknowledgment with a marking that passport is granted. I had a very pleasant experience. To my surprise, the government officials in the office were more polite and quick than the outsourced personnel.
Within two days, the official from the jurisdictional police station contacted me for verification. I submitted the copies of the documents along with photograph to them. On the 7th day of my application, the Passport Office despatched my passport!
This is a classic example of the success of e-governance projects in public service delivery. I really appreciate the way the Ministry of External Affairs in India and the team of officials have implemented the project with the technical support from the private sector. This has eradicated corruption and administrative bottlenecks.
My advice to all those who want to apply or renew the passport:
-Login to the website and fill the Form. Get an appointment online or reach early at the passport office for walk-in appointments
-Be clear about what original documents you should carry. It is clearly mentioned in the website. Carry photo copies of all documents with you.
-Have a good breakfast in the morning. Carry a few newspapers or magazines. Or carry your smartphone or tablet so that you won’t get bored inside. Be mentally prepared to spend a few hours in the office.
Go back home and track your application status online. They will send you sms and email once the passport is despatched. You don’t have to wait too long for your passport to reach you! Trust the system. It is not always bad!
(Comments are welcome)
(c) Sibichen K Mathew
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