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A few years ago, a visit to the Regional Transport Office had caused me to rant. It is only fair that a diametrically opposite experience cause me to write something nice. So this is what happened..

I needed a new passport. When I asked around I learnt that the Passport office had done away with the system of ‘agents’ who, in the past, had been almost indispensable if one wanted to navigate the various desks in the office.  I also learnt that the application would have to be on line. I feared the worst when I went to the website to apply for a new passport.

Very interestingly the process was easy, ridiculously easy. I had lodged in my application, made the payment and secured an appointment in less than 30 minutes. All this happened on Monday and I had an appointment for Wednesday. I had opted for the Tatkal scheme.

When I arrived at the Passport Seva Kendra (the office), I was faced with a huge crowd. The security personnel were letting in only those who had appointments / papers for themselves. Nary an agent in sight – a remarkable feat for a government office in India. Inside things were chaotic but  there was some semblance of order. The whole place was air conditioned and clean!! Anyone who has been to a government office in South Asia will know why I am making such a big deal of this. 

The passport was issued through a five step process

  1. Preliminary vetting of documents.
  2. Detailed vetting by a senior officer, including checking of the police clearance (that was on file for all those who had passports)
  3. Biometrics (you don’t have to take any snaps with you), scanning & uploading of documents, payment of fees (Tatkal fees paid in cash) happened here.
  4. Another verification (sigh)
  5. Then the granting of the passport (another verification)

The time at the desks was not more than 20 minutes overall. The waiting was a killer. The whole process took 4 hours. Cannot complain since there were nearly 1000 applicants there.

The staff was courteous and if one’s documents were in order, the whole process was fairly painless. Photocopying facilities were available. There was a child care room for those who had come with infants. The display boards worked. A canteen offered snacks and coffee. The bathrooms were clean and the drinking water filtered!

Overall, computerisation and good staff orientation did make my experience as a customer nice. Here is hoping more government offices go this way.

Makarand

PS : I got my new passport, at my home, today: less than 48 hours after I finished the process. In that time, I had been updated about the dispatch so I could actually be at home when the postman came.

PS2: As the first comment below said, this digitization was done by CMC, which makes even more happy: CMC was my first exposure to a working life.

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