Government offices [GO’s] are a place where no one wants to go, but unfortunately more often than not everyone has to go there. It is like a necessary evil, without which surviving in this country is impossible and with them it is a nightmare. During the odd 21 years of my life, I have had my share of stint with the GO’s and take my word the visit there have never been pleasant. Why I am saying all this, because very recently I had another such visit to the passport office situated behind Hyatt Regency.
If you plan to get a new passport then I think this post will mentally prepare you about what all you will be facing in the process. Although am not writing it to scare you, but if you do get scared, then do not blame me. First of all one need to decide if one is applying for the passport through the normal process or on urgent bases under the ‘Tatkal’ scheme. If you are not in a hurry to get it and can wait for some 6-7 months [although the official period of waiting is maximum 3 months] then its better to apply through general process, and it will be much better if you submit the form at the local collection centre near your house. Even if the regional passport office [RPO] at Hyatt is nearer to your place, even then I would suggest you to avoid the RPO by all means [I think everyone knows why?].
But before you go to any of the office or apply under any of the schemes it is important to fill the form correctly and attach all the documents. Make sure that you have equipped your form with all the necessary documents, affidavits and pasted your photograph with light or white background. All this is very important or else you will be sent back and after spending some 3-4 hours you will be standing nowhere.
Because of my laziness I was not fortunate enough to have the pleasure of applying passport in general at the local centre, so I had to go to the RPO to apply it under Tatkal scheme [as forms under Tatkal can only be submitted at the RPO]. The Tatkal scheme is meant for those who are in an urgent need of their passport and officially you get your passport within 5 working days. Although it is meant for speeding the things but applying your passport as Tatkal takes more time than the general one.
To begin with everyone who wants to submit their forms need to get a token and only 180 tokens are issued for Tatkal applications in a day. Although the process of issuing token begins after 9:30, but in order to make sure you do get a token reach the passport office at most by 8 a.m. because if you will be late, then the chances are you will not get one. Still if you are late then there is a way of getting a token early and that is by buying a spot ahead in the queue from one of the many touts [agents/dalal call them whatever you like] who grabs a spot early in the morning. On an average your day will begin some what around 7 or 7:30 in the morning, and by 8 you will be standing in a long queue to get token which you will get around 11 [so from the starting itself it is a long wait and hence you needs to be very patient]. On a normal day your token number will be around 100 [if you get it by 11:00] and now again it is a lamba intezaar. So do not forget to take water bottle and lunch box. These two are the most important things to carry, because like everyone else there, the vendors also know about your condition and hence the rates at which they sell things are exorbitant.
It will easily take another 3-4 hours before your turn will come to submit the form, so do not forget to take newspaper, magazines, I-pod etc alongwith to kill time especially if you are alone. But if you are not carrying any of these things [like me] then there is another way of killing time and that is by looking at different people hopping there from one place to other. One thing which I failed to understand about all the aspiring passport holders was, why can’t they sit patiently at one place. All were so restless and looked to be ‘pareshan atma’ sort. During the odd 8 hours of my stay I could not find even a single person who was sitting patiently waiting for his/her turn. God knows what they were hunting for?
Among all the different kind of people there was one type of the overly excited about helping others and the other was that of don’t even ask for it. Generally the old people formed the helping lot. They were more than happy in helping, infact one old uncle standing just before me in the token queue was himself volunteering to check others forms, if everything was in place or not. He was also offering people blank papers to write applications, even before you could ask for one he said ‘ye le paper aur application likh’. If am not wrong he must have given atleast 8-10 papers to different people [this number could have been even larger because you are supposed to write an application alongwith the form but nowhere in the form it is mentioned. So almost everyone there was without the application except the veterans like that uncle].
The men of 35-45 age groups were the least helpful. They were only concerned about getting their job done and did not bothered about others. Same was the case with the officials there [but you can’t blame them, afterall they are ‘sarkari saand’ and not working is their birth right]. Even the help desk was not ready to help, forget about others. At some 6 counters in the Tatkal section there were atleast 12 boards that read ‘koi poochtach nahi’ [no enquiry].
While talking about a GO and not mentioning the agents/dalal will be very unfair. Take my word, if you can work without their help than please don’t take it. Instead of getting your work done right chances are you will land in some glitch because of them. Firstly, standing in those long queues is the most frustrating and time consuming job. Even after hiring an agent you will still be standing in them [so why to pay him the money?]. Moreover he is least bothered about getting your passport done. The only thing he is concerned is his money. If there is some fault in your form the officer will not accept it and the agent will not get his money. So he will make sure that your form is accepted, even if there is some problem in it. So technically you will be happily paying him the money as your work is done, but practically it will get rejected and you will be in a fix.
Long queues, frustrated officials not ready to work, complicated form with so many documents and affidavits to be attached, no one to look for help, nothing to do for killing time and spending some 7-8 hours there will mark your day at the passport office. For me it was not at all a good experience but once done, there was a sense of achievement. So if you plan to go then it is not all that bad.
It is a general notion that everyone makes atleast two rounds of the passport office before their form is accepted under the Tatkal scheme. So if you can get your job done in one visit only, then consider yourself lucky and smart. And by the way keep your fingers crossed for getting your passport in 5 working days [applied under Tatkal scheme].