On 5th March since I could not use the online system and anyway was going to apply on Tatkaal, a friend advised me to skip the online system and show up at the RPO directly. I could not believe that there was a way to avoid the online insanity, but hey, its India and we don't question our babus. I would be 10 kinds of a fool if I looked a gift horse in the mouth.
So morning of 6th March, unshaven and looking like as a rowdy I showed up at the RPO. Stood in a queue to get a token number. The token number is given after a cursory check of documents, then went to another queue inside and finally into a room where a babu stamps the printout carrying the ARN. Thats it! Appointment received to go to one of the PSKs and start tatkaal processing.
What a criminal waste of time and money. All the procedure at the RPO just to get an appointment at the PSK. Why couldn't I have gone directly to the PSK in the first place, why do I need to come here and do all this halabaloo just to get a rubber stamp. There is nothing checked except the application which shows your intent to pay the needless extra fees of Tatkaal. India must be the only country which has made made it a government art to make money off delivering services in a time expedient fashion.
Well, armed with this document of knighthood, Sir Galahad galloped on his giggling goat to the gable of the ghastly PSK. At the PSK, there was a long queue outside. Ask the guards at your own peril, they'll make you stand in the queue. I went directly inside the office to the Tatkaal counter, submitted the passport and documents with photocopies, etc and waited for them to call. Most part of the PSK is run by Tata Consultancy Services which had won the tender some years ago.
At the PSK I found that TCS is blatantly overcharging people for photocopy service. Right under the board which says Re 1 per photocopy the guy was charging Re 1.5. I made a huge racket about it, more on that in a later post.
Anyway, the rest of the experience was quite marvellous. The infrastructure and facilities are really great, seating spaces, TV with displays of token numbers, minimum bureaucratic at display, clean restrooms, snack joints, etc. There are three stages of processing, A, B and C, each game show round gets harder to cross, and I flunked stage C.
At Stage A, they actually take a photography right then and there and thats the photo that ends up in the passport! Whats the f-ing idea of this? Taking portrait photos even if its a mug shot is an art best left to studio lighting and a photographer who knows what he is doing. One does try to tidy up before getting passport photos taken, the photographer takes care to see that chin is down, eyes are up, (or maybe chin up, eyes down) etc etc and that you don't look like a jailbird on parole with a hangover. Remember I said that I showed up looking like a rowdy, so that's how my mug has been captured for all eternity in the bloody passport. Fat chance I have of getting past immigration looking like that.
PS: The first photo the guy took actually looked like a weevil from Torchwood, so I made him take another one which was a wee bit better.
Well I got past Stage B while the cheer leaders shook their pompoms and bottoms, and then to a nail biting finish at Stage C. At stage C, the guy referred me to another counter in Stage C, and by this time I was pissing my pants. The person at this counter took my file, looked through it, checked the computer, looked through the file, looked at me, checked the computer, and after some long moments of doing more of the same, opened her mouth a wee bit and muttered "policy".
WDF is policy? With the most cryptic smirk she said that I have to go to RPO policy section, no she cant tell WDF "policy" is, its against PSK policy to tell citizens what "policy" is. And her smirk proclaimed in words ten feet tall, dude you toh are FUBAR. Well, strike 1 for the babus, so muttering evil curses I went to perform the exit ceremony.
At the exit I got a paper which essentially said, all is fine, all your documents are correct, but we've decided to fuck your happiness, further processing is on hold so come to the RPO and maybe if you bend and scrape enough we'll grant you another passport. Oh joy.
The govt is still living up to its promise I see:
"To deliver passport services to citizens in a timely, transparent, more accessible, reliable manner and in a comfortable environment through streamlined processes and committed, trained and motivated workforce"
Shri Salman Khurshid