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Inordinate delays at Pune Passport office; RTI applications rejected

Has the public-private –partnership between Tata Consultancy Services and the Passport Office become a joke in Pune, as utter chaos and harassment of passport applicants prevail. To add to the fury, the Passport Office is also rejecting RTI applications on flimsy grounds

If you are an upright citizen who would not use the service of agents to get your passport, you would be in a dock, particularly if it happens to be the Passport Office at Pune. Allegedly, a deep nexus between the officials and agents is resulting in harassment to citizens.
 

Young Sachin Bhasme is an architect by profession and has consciously not used services of any agent even for his driving license. However, in the case of his passport, when he applied with the same principles of lawfulness, it has backfired. Since applying for a passport on 20 September 2012, he has been running from the Passport Office to the Tata Consultancy Services offices to police stations. He has even made attempts to file RTI applications but all in vain.
 

His story goes like this: After applying online for his passport fee receipt no PN1F12301732862) and going through his appointment at the Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) offices (which is a front end operations partner with the Ministry of External Affairs under the public-private-partnership (PPP)) for verification of his documents. He got an e-acknowledgement letter from Pune’s Regional Passport Office on the same day, stating “submitted successfully; Application status: Pre-Police Verification Mode”.
 

After the requisite 45 days, he did not receive his passport. He waited patiently and visited the Passport Office on 15 December 2012. The Officials told him that police verification is pending. He went to the relevant police station but his application had not reached. Says Bhasme, “I sifted through all the passport applications that were received by the police station, but mine was missing.’’ He was then asked to go to the Passport Division at the Pune Police Commissionerate headquarters. There too his application had not arrived.
 

Read Are information commissioners killing the RTI Act? by Vinita Deshmukh

Says Bhasme, “I went back to the Passport Office in the first week of January with my RTI application to know the status of my passport. One officer who named herself as Seeta asked me not to invoke RTI and that, I should wait for 10 more days, assuring me that I would receive my passport.’’
 

Predictably, there was no news. So Bhasme again visited the Passport Office with his RTI application on 16 January 2013.  He wrote his application and under Section 6 of the RTI Act demanding “the daily progress made on my application so far; when did my application reach which officer, for how long; according to information given in your official website (http://www.passportindia.gov.in/AppOnlineProject/online/faqWhatHasChanged) my passport should have been made in 30 to 45 days as per old system and three days as per current system. However, it is more than 3 months and 28 days now. Please give names and designations of officials who were supposed to take action on my application and who have not done so; what action would be taken against these officials for not doing their work and for causing harassment to the public? By when would I get my passport now.”
 

However, his RTI application was rejected by the Passport Officer saying that they do not accept the fee of Rs10 in cash and have asked him to give a DD. This is in gross violation of the application fee norms put up on the Ministry of External Affairs website ’’http://www.passportindia.gov.in/AppOnlineProject/pdf/RTI.pdf, which clearly states that fees can be given in cash – 2. Application Fee: The application for obtaining information under  sub-section (1) of section 6 of RTI Act, 2005, must be accompanied by prescribed application fee drawn in favour of Accounts Officer, Ministry of External Affairs payable at New Delhi, or the Regional Passport Officer, payable at the place where the application is being submitted. At present the application fee, which is subject to change from time to time, is as under:-Application fee: Rs. 10/- (Rupees ten only). Mode of payment: By cash against proper receipt or by demand draft/ banker's cheque / Indian Postal Order.”
 

Read here how noted RTI activists Shailesh Gandhi and Aruna Roy filed Intervention Petition in the Supreme Court
 

Says a harassed Bhasme, “The TCS office does not even entertain your complaints. They say that their responsibility is over once they forward your application to the Passport Office. Any queries regarding the status or reasons of delay of your passport are not answered and I was told to sort it out with the Passport office.’’ 
 

This is in complete contrast to the press release dated October 13, 2008 issued by TCS when it entered into PPP in 2008 (http://www.tcs.com/news_events/press_releases/Pages/GOI-awards-Passport-Automation-to-TCS.aspx ). Tanmoy Chakrabarty, Vice President, Global Government Business Group, TCS has quoted as committing: “A call center would be established to help the applicants with information regarding passport procedures and the status of submitted requests. Grievances would be tracked and closed. Passport Facilitation Centers (PFCs) will be the primary hubs supporting all activities including biometric capture, photograph, payment and verification and issue of passports in the presence of applicants for most cases… Complete tracking of the process would be possible in the system. Police nodal offices will be facilitated by TCS personnel and it will be possible to download passport forms there directly, thus eliminating any logistic delay.’’
 

The press release tom-tommed this PPP as “India's Largest Mission Critical E-governance Project of over Rs10,000 million; Passports to be delivered after three working days post police-verification.’’ What is the use if the TCS is merely acting as a courier service to the Passport office?
 

Read about an RTI workshop organized by Moneylife Foundation on using specific orders of the CIC to file an effective RTI applications conducted by noted RTI activist, Shailesh Gandhi
 

Bhasme’s case is not a solitary one. On various e-complaint boards, citizens applying for their passports from Pune’s Regional Passport Office are undergoing mental harassment.  One of the postings amongst many others gives an idea:
 

http://www.complaintboard.in/complaints-reviews/passport-office-pune-l14081/page/3


As for the TCS, S Ramadorai, the then CEO and Managing Director, had said, “We believe that this mission mode project of national importance will make delivery of passport services truly world class in nature. This project reiterates TCS’ commitment to help government deliver citizen services more efficiently through technology and process improvements and will transform passport service delivery to the citizens of India.” 
 

Nearly one year down the line since TCS’s Pune front-end office has become operational, efficient passport delivery is a distant dream.

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COMMENTS

dr sanjay patil

3 years ago

dr sanjay patil ahmadnagar
I do n`t know who manages the Mundhwa passport office.
But my wife a dentist by profession has travelled to Pune, wasted 16 man hours & still she was returned back on very flimsy grounds. No body to explain why & what are the querries. Smell very fishy behaviour..if at all they want money - should dare to directly ask for it !!

girish deshpande

4 years ago

bhamse's experience is unfortunate. but these are freak cases. i have had EXCELLENT experience at the passport office and have expressed it in as many words to every table i had to go to (TCS, MEA). very efficient and very courteous desk officers. incredible facility. if at all there is delay it is at the police verification end and quite understandbaly so, given the huge load and just a couple of junior level police naik's engaged in this work. so i wouldn't want to buy the argument in this column in its entireity. RTI issue is another matter and i dont wish to comment in this case.

S Gandhi

4 years ago

Government employees are bunch of laggards who take salary from our tax money and enjoy all the perks without any accountability. But watch you, thanks to computer, you all are going to take early VRS (voluntary retirement) and sit back & enjoy at home. Because that is were you all belong. Not to hurt any honest Government employee, which are rare.

Vaibhav Dhoka

4 years ago

It is challenge IN INDIA to name any government agency where you get hassle free and corruption free SERVICE.No chance ever.

Arun Gandhi

4 years ago

My Passport got lost in the Passport Office . After Police Verification at Chatushringi Police Station ( after waiting for 4 Hours ) the file was sent to the Passport Office (along with 15-20 other applicants) ....all Passport files were lost , and instead we got a letter after many months of waiting that now we have to get Biometrics done.
Arun Gandhi,Pune
9270022334
[email protected]

Really unfair

I am a subscriber of Moneylife magazine since long. The newsletter is also good; I never miss reading them. I appreciate the efforts of Moneylife Foundation to throw light on many investors’ issues and other issues. I would like to share my experience with TataSky which may also be the case of many other DTH subscribers.

 
Please note that though the amount involved is meagre, the tactics with which the customers are looted are really unfair.
 
I am a TataSky subscriber with Subscription ID 1025932649. From 15 October 2012 to 29 October 2012, I wanted to opt for a 15-day voluntary suspension of service offered by TataSky, once in a year. However, during the process of the above request, the customer care department also activated the ‘Fun Learning Pack’, without my consent, or knowledge, from 15th October. An amount of Rs48.84 was deducted from my balance during October and November 2012 and the nominal available balance was fully exhausted.
 
My annual subscription is usually, due for renewal at the end of December. However since my account showed NIL balance, I started receiving messages from the beginning of December that all services will be discontinued, if not recharged in time. 
 
While checking the due dates and status of subscription of channel packs, I came to know that an unwanted service of Fun Learning Pack was activated earlier from 15 October 2012, without my knowledge, and I was also charged for it. I found it difficult even to deactivate that unwanted extra service which I never used. It was hard to convince them that in no case, a person would also request for a service on the same day on which he requests for a temporary suspension (since I was going on a vacation) and, hence, activation of unwanted service is quite unfair. 
 
I also told them that I am not going to recharge for any amount and my service must continue up to the regular renewal date. After many long calls for a couple of days Rs9/- was re-credited to my A/c on 21st December (so that my services could last up to my usual renewal date of 27th December). Also, during the past one year, on various occasions of renewal of other channel packs, the same service was offered to me as free, for one month and chargeable thereafter, if not deactivated by subscriber and I could get rid of it with great difficulty.     
 
The reason, why I want to share this incident with Moneylife readers is that similar unfair practices are also used by mobile service-providers offering some download service or caller tune, etc, free for one month, and chargeable thereafter, if you do not discontinue it. It is not possible to track it; if one does not want the service or does not want to pay for it, one needs to initiate deactivation of the service after the free-look period. The services are offered continuously and the customer comes to know only when the amount is billed or deducted from his balance.
 
Mobile service-providers also send ‘Flash Messages’, offering some download, etc. The service is activated just with a click on the flash message. It is even thrust upon customers who use simple low-range handsets that do not even support such service.
 
I am sure Moneylife is a proper forum that can address similar unfair practices with DTH and mobile service-providers as well as the regulator.
Viral Gandhi, Valsad, by email
 
Patronising cooperative banks
Moneylife (27 December 2012) carried a news item under ‘Your Money’: two-thirds of all bank deposits do not have insurance cover. Deposit insurance cover was introduced under the Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation (DIGC) Act 1961, covering all deposits in the name of an individual currently, up to a limit of Rs1 lakh. Further, it said that the balance of DIGC’s deposit insurance fund had Rs30,000 crore, annual inflow of Rs5,300 crore against a demand of only Rs287 crore. 
 
It is 51 years since this scheme began. Given the rate of inflation and the resultant value of the rupee, surely, the coverage of up to Rs1 lakh (decided in 1993) is a pittance! Today, even a chaprasi in any government office, or bank, or even in the private sector, would be earning Rs10,000 per month after 30 years of service. On retirement, therefore, he could certainly cobble up anywhere between Rs7 lakh to Rs10 lakh, inclusive of his PF (provident fund), gratuity, leave salary, savings, etc. If he has to live on the income of this corpus, surely, his deposits need protection. This is required especially since many of them patronise cooperative banks, as they give a marginally higher interest rate on deposits, but are vulnerable to failures.
 
Besides, with senior citizens constantly managing a challenging environment of having to live within the income from their frozen corpus, protection of a significant part of their retirement corpus in banks would help prevent a financial calamity, given the precarious state of many of the financial institutions. 
 
The Reserve Bank of India should, therefore, take immediate steps to enhance this cover limit to Rs10 lakh. I would urge Moneylife to send a petition on behalf of all senior citizens and bank deposit-holders in this regard.
SA Narayan, by email
 
Price discrepancy
I have recently subscribed to Moneylife and I find it really informative, educational and up-to-date. Still, I am a bit confused with the data provided in Street Beat and Stockgrader sections due to which it is difficult to track the performance and ensure necessary action.
 
In the PDF version of Moneylife (27 December 2012) in Street Beat, you have mentioned that Atul Auto has given 19% return while Venus Remedies has given 11% results. Both the stocks have entered in your list on 29th November. However, if I take the data from moneycontrol, on the date of entry and date of issue, you have following data:
29th November to 14th December (when digital version of the magazine was received) —% return:
Atul Auto moved up from Rs161.65 to Rs170.80 with a return of 5%.
Venus Remedies moved up from Rs279.75 to Rs283.30 with a return of 4%.
I am sure if we use any other resource, the data will be more or less same. Hence, my suggestion is that while mentioning the stock price, Moneylife should mention the date of entry; while mentioning the returns, Moneylife should mention the date up to which returns have been calculated. This will give better clarity and also ensure that the data matches the results actually received by the investor.
 
I hope that I will be able to see this incorporated in the near future in Moneylife.
Vivek Agarwal, by email 
 
The price to be taken for checking the performance of a particular stock is either the price mentioned in the issue, or the price prevailing on the last trading day of the week, when the issue hits the stand. The issue dated 29 November 2012 hit the news stand on 15 November 2012. Hence, we took the closing price of 16 November 2012 as the ‘enter at’ price. – Editor
 
Customers are made to run
This with regard to “Banking services is a right of every individual: FM. Will RBI enforce this right for the benefit of the banking public?” by Gurpur. I had an account with Axis Bank, Ghatkopar (Mumbai). I moved to Bengaluru and requested a change of address in their systems. I closed the account in November 2012 and the balance of Rs121 in my account (thankfully, I withdrew the remaining amount using my ATM card) was sent to me after multiple reminders and calls to them. The Bank sent me a local cheque of Mumbai to Bengaluru. Now, I have to incur a collection charge to encash this cheque. A simple check by the Bank and issuing a DD (demand draft) would have saved my time, effort and money. I am sure this is the case with all the banks and the customers are made to run from pillar to post unnecessarily.
M Sudheer
 
Collection costs
This is with regard to “NBFCs allowed to migrate to new standard cheques till March 2013.” What if the borrower refuses? The NBFC (non-banking finance company) is stuck. Collection costs will go up.
R Balakrishnan
 
‘Misuse of the scheme’
This is with regard to “Rajiv Gandhi Jeevandayee Arogya Yojana – How the hospitals and insurance company may profit” by Raj Pradhan. Most hospitals, which are empanelled, are from the private sector. There is allegedly ‘a lot of misuse of this scheme’ by these hospitals, with unnecessary operations being carried out.
Thomas Kuruvilla
 
Eyes wide open
This is with regard to “Credibility of primary markets at stake: SEBI chief.” That is the nature of the beast. Those who apply in IPOs need to do so with their eyes wide open. Nobody questions the credentials of a third-grade company if the price keeps going up after listing. The odds of making money, on listing, are not very different from the odds of making money in a casino.
Nilesh Kamerkar

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