My tryst with passport office (part-2)

Remember where we had left it last time? A quick recap – after much difficulties and repeated visits to the RPO, I was able to submit the passport application and left the passport office with a sense of accomplishment.

Two months passed and I heard nothing from either the passport office or the police stations. That was strange as two police verification needed to be done – one at my current residence and another at previous residence. Just when I was about to lose all the patience I had, I got a call from my current address police station. But when I went to see meet the concerned officer, he wasn’t on duty. Anyhow, 3 calls and 2 days later, police verification was done. After few days, I got a call from my previous address police station. He asked me several questions about my present address, my previous address and associated timelines. I answered all his questions honestly. Nowhere he mentioned that I needed to come for physical verification (which is also not very logical as expecting someone to be physically present at his/her previous address is a bit too much of verification.) So, I assumed that verification was over and started waiting for my passport.

A month passed. No progress. I checked the application status on website and it said, “Your Passport Application is under review at passport office”

Another month passed. I checked the application status on website and it said, “Your Passport Application is under review at passport office”

Another month passed. I checked the application status on website and it said, “Your Passport Application is under review at passport office”

6 months passed. One of my colleagues, who had applied for passport two months back, received his passport after getting ‘professional help‘ from an agent!

One year after submitting application, I checked the application status on website and it said, “Your Passport Application is under review at passport office”. My colleague asked me to get ‘professional help‘, but I decided to file an RTI instead. The RTI was disposed off within 4 days and the reply was “Your application is transfer RPO Bhubaneswar xx/xx/xx.” Though I didn’t get any reply of the RTI from RPO, apparently they took some action. After more than a month of RTI, I got a call from them and they said that the police verification report from my previous address was ‘ADVERSE.’ I asked them what it meant! They said that in place of writing “The applicant lived at xx from xx/xx/xx to xx/xx/xx” they wrote “The applicant doesn’t currently live at this address” which was technically correct as it was my previous address and not the current address! But they needed that exact phrase on the verification file and re-initiated the verification process. After 4-5 days, I received a mail from passport office that police verification had been re-initiated on my previous address and I needed to get in touch with the police station. 

I did get in touch with them and they said I needed to come for physical verification. So, I had to go to my previous address and it was not once but twice! First time to the special branch and then to the regular police station.

I allowed a month to pass after completing the verification. And then started checking my application status. Guess what it read! The same old “Your Passport Application is under review at passport office”

So, I filed a first appeal on earlier RTI, with a request to update me on the status of my file. The reply I got was “Kindly furnish copy of your RTI query and reply by the CPIO of concerned RPO to enable consideration of your appeal.”

So, I decided to mail to RPO. The reply I received was

This is to inform you that application status can be tracked through the ‘Track Status’ link on our website: www.passportindia.gov.in, with the help of File Number and the Date of Birth, where status of applications keeps on updating regularly. As per the information available with us, your application is under review at Regional Passport Office (RPO), Bhubaneswar and you will receive the passport upon completion of necessary processing. You may contact the Regional Passport Office (RPO), Bhubaneswar in-person for necessary assistance regarding your concern. You may obtain information about RPO from the link:http://www.passportindia.gov.in/AppOnlineProject/online/rpo. This is to inform you that applicant or his/her representative may also visit the RPO. The person representing the applicant should carry an authorization letter (On paper or FAX or Email) from the applicant.

As if I didn’t know how to track application status online! I tried to make them understand the problem by mailing them in detail about my problem. But they again sent the standard reply quoted above. It frustrated me to note that human being were employed and yet all we got was standard text in replies. I tried to call the numbers mentioned, but no one ever picked.

So, I filed another RTI and again the RTI was disposed off to the RPO without sending me any reply. I decided to give a month to RPO before taking any further action. 20 days later, I received a mail and a call and a SMS from passport office that my passport has been dispatched! Finally, happy endings!

PS: Many of my friends told me that there was an ‘alternate route’, but I wanted to see how it happens in the ‘normal route’ even though it meant postponing my GMAT appointment, missing on some exciting opportunities and a lot of mental strain.

#LessonLearnt – RTIs work. Thank you Rahul Gandhi 😛

Intellectual Idiots on a Train

Have you ever traveled in Indian railways without prior booking? I’m sure many of you have. I have seen so many people travel without confirmed tickets and then ‘manage’ with the TTE. But, I prefer to have a confirmed seat before boarding a train to save me from the hassles. Sometimes I even book multiple tickets to have flexibility and then cancel all the unused ones. This post is about what happened when I violated this rule.

I had gone to Jamshedpur for some work on a weekend in March’15, of course with confirmed tickets! I had my return tickets on Sunday night. But my friends persuaded me to extend my stay till Monday (No, not because I’m extremely popular, but to finish the business I had gone for!!). So, I cancelled my return ticket and looked for one on Monday. Unfortunately, I could not find any available tickets and finally decided to ‘manage’ somehow!

So, I booked a general ticket and went to the platform to board the train. Just when the train was about to come, I saw a TTE (rather someone in TTE’s attire I would say, as I didn’t check the ID) promising people confirmed seats. I asked him whether he could give me a confirmed seat. He demanded Rs 200 and said that the TTE in the train will take another Rs 500. He gave me verbal ‘guarantee’ of a seat but wasn’t ready to upgrade my ticket officially. That made me doubt his credentials and I refused his offer. Cursing me for wasting his time, he proceeded to other ‘customers’ and I proceeded to the train to look for the TTE on train duty. Eventually the TTE came out of the train and I discussed with him my position. He asked me to sit on berth no 58 in coach no B2 and wait for him to come and upgrade my ticket. I wasn’t alone and there were others who were allotted seats in similar fashion. In fact, my compartment and the adjacent one had most of the travelers with general tickets waiting to be upgraded. After the train had moved a mile or two from Tatanagar junction, a person (let’s call him Mr. F) dressed as a bed-roll guy (again, I didn’t check his ID) came to us.

Mr. F – Aap Jajpur Road ja rahe hain naa? TTE saaheb ne aapko B2-58 diya hai naa? (You’re going to Jajpur Road and the TTE has given you berth no 58 in coach B2, right?)

Me – Hanji. (yes)

Mr. F – ticket number dikhaiye aur 500 rupaye dijiye, TTE saheb maange hain aapka ticket banane. (Okay, give me your ticket number and Rs 500. The TTE has asked to collect it for upgrading your ticket)

This was not an isolated conversation between me & Mr. F. He had similar conversation with 3 other fellow travelers in my compartment. He told them their seat numbers and destination and asked for ticket number and money. One of my fellow travelers joked that the TTE had one job and that too he outsourced to bed-roll guy!

We wanted to go to sleep, but waited for some time for Mr. F to come back with upgraded tickets but it was taking longer and longer. Now, some of us started doubting Mr. F and one person went to look for him. As you might have guessed, he could not find Mr. F and instead came with the TTE! The TTE heard our stories and we realized that there were a total of 6 persons who gave him money for ticket up-gradation. The TTE also tried to find him, but in vain. Mr. F was in fact Mr. Fraud and probably got down at some station immediately after looting us. So, we gave the TTE another Rs 500 each to get our tickets upgraded and went to sleep with peace!

Though at a cost, I learnt some important lessons for life from the incident. The incident got me into thinking what went wrong. The same person refuses to give Rs 200 to a person in TTE’s attire at the station and readily gives Rs 500 to a person in bed-roll guy’s attire. What made me believe Mr F? I guess it was something similar to peer pressure. At the station, I was making independent decision and did what I felt was right. But, in the train, there were other fellow travelers and somehow the responsibility to establish the identity of Mr F got diluted. Everyone thought, “Since no one else is doubting him, why should I!” In decision-making, individual responsibility is very crucial. It makes the person feel responsible for the decision. In collective decision-making, the sense of responsibility somehow gets diluted.

Someone has rightly said, “Kyon Darein Zindagi Mein Kya Hoga, Kuch na Hoga to Tajurba Hoga!!”