In the last couple of months, I went through a lot of problems concerning my passport. I have written down every detail of my trouble just to get this document. Below is the article I wrote to send it in the media. Thanks to my friend Vidya Ranade from Pune Mirror who took up this issue and got it published today, Aug 25, 2009. Here is the link Getting Passport re-issued was an agonising Task
Why should getting any document that shows our identity become so complex and annoying? Not only I wasted time, but my energy, money and came home with a doubt of ever receiving my passport! What I shall write ahead of me is not for me but for all the people who go through this awful process of acquiring a passport – a small identification of being an Indian to travel abroad.
It all started with the necessity to re-issue my passport which is going to be expiring in Dec 2009. Since I had to get it done this year and had some time at hand, I thought I should apply it a little beforehand. I got the reference of an agent from my friend and decided to do through them. As per the requirements, I was asked to produce several documents in original form and their copies. After I submitted my documents, I was quite at ease and assumed that the agent would take responsibility of my passport process. I was also told that I would get a call from the Police Department for some identity verification within 8 days. I somehow knew that it would be certainly more than 8 days as living in India, not a single procedure moves at an expected pace. I waited for nearly 20 days and a little later than that, a woman comes to my door and hands in the passport to me. I was quite surprised to receive my passport within a month without the police verification. She asked me several questions and refused to leave. I was a bit confused and assumed she wanted to some reward, as it is very often said, for delivering my document. I did not pay heed to her hungry eyes and asked her to leave. I opened my passport and saw a stamp stating Emigration Check Required (ECR)! Now according to their procedure graduates do not need this stamp and I am not only a graduate but have acquired my Masters Degree too! I should have got a stamp stating Emigration Check Not Required! This was my problem number one; the second began soon after that! I called my agent to deal with the issue and he too did not pay heed to my problem and simply asked me to do it on my own. I was annoyed because I’d already paid up and was wondering why I appointed an agent when I ultimately have to go and wait in lines for the procedure. Anyway, what had to be done was unavoidable and I decided to keep calm and follow the procedure.
The next day, I got a call at 8am in the morning from the Shastri Nagar Police Station to visit them in order to get my verification done. I was not instructed about the procedural formality despite asking about the same. As per the instructions, I went there to find out that they needed 3 photographs of me along with PAN card as my identification. I realised that I would obviously have to make a second appearance as my Driver’s Licence, which happens to be another official government document, was not accepted as adequate proof of identification. I was asked to come at 6pm the very same day. With a lot of adjustment at work I went back to the Police Station sharp at 6pm to find out that the senior officer was not available before whom I had to make my appearance. Well I was asked to come back again at 10am the next day! I took the phone number of one of the officer in charge and called him before leaving the next morning. Thankfully he told me not to come since the senior officer was again not available. I was surprised to get a call later that evening from a constable in charge to come to the Police Station at 6pm, with less than an hour to spare, the very same day. Finally, on that day, I got my verification done within 10-15 minutes after spending so much time travelling back and forth.
This was the end of the third problem and could not forget about the ECR issue that needed to be resolved. I was calm and prepared for the next step towards getting my passport in order. I decided to be before time in case of the usual waiting in line and government delays and routine. I believed it to be a very simple and straightforward procedure to get this changed since the error had occurred from their side. I went to the Passport Office at Senapati Bapat Road, Pune with all the necessary documents to get my passport corrected. I stood in line for nearly 45 minutes even though I was there before 10am which is the commencing time of the office. By the time I reached the entrance of the office, some officer told me to fill out a form. I did not have glue with me when I approached the counter. I agree I was negligent in this case but none of the procedures were clear to me in the first place. When I stood in line to submit my form albeit without the photo, the officer across made a very obnoxious gesture for me to go away and threw the papers at me. I was offended but did not react and turned back to do the needful. I walked out of the office and asked a person where I would get my photo glued to the form. I was told that the shop nearby charged Rs. 2/- to use their glue. Isn’t that unbelievable? It wasn’t about giving Rs.2/-. It was about going through so much stress and torture at every step just to get a simple passport! After I came back to re-submit my papers and asked the officer when I would get my passport, he barked by saying that how was he supposed to know. I asked him his name which he refused to disclose and asked me to leave again gesturing obnoxiously. I was furious by then and made it clear that we should be treated respectfully and do not deserve to be screamed at. He was not only talking with me disrespectfully but to all the people who were standing in line with me. I got my receipt and walked out deciding to go to the press and media vowing to bring the procedure into public eye. The question here is, was it my fault that I got an error of ECR on my passport? I am spending time, effort and money in fixing a problem for which I should not have been bothered and on top of it, ill-treated. I am not sure how the system works but as an individual and a citizen of this country, I have the right to get my document done with no hassle unless there is some serious concern from my side.
This is not just for me but for all the people who have gone through these issues and will go through them for the next innumerable years. This nuisance as I should call it should be put across to the masses. As I said earlier, we as citizens just demand basic rights, simple and straightforward, which in fact are complicated and without a solution!