Peyush Rai, who had to endure the agony of the red tape, narrates his story in which he was asked to pay bribes and made to hop all over the place. He had applied for a passport online, serviced by a system maintained by TCS, but discovered that it online system isn’t free of corruption and rampant red tape
I have been hopping from pillar to post—from the Pune police commissioner’s office to the local police station to the regional passport office (RPO) and to the Passport Seva Kendra—several times, in the two months since I had applied for a passport online. I had also applied for the police clearance certificate (PCC) on 18 January 2013. Initially, I had I thought that I would get the PCC within a matter of hours just like my colleagues, but was shocked to know that I will have go through police verification process again.
After 15 days of applying for the PCC, I went to my local police station where the inspector told me to go to commissioner’s office if I wanted my file early. Therefore, I went to the commissioner’s office where a lady was in charge of the records of the area where I reside. I asked her for the PCC. Indeed, they had my PCC and would forward it to the local police station from whom I would get a call intimating receipt of the PCC. However, she told me that if I wanted a quicker process, I would have to pay. She told me, “Sir, you have to pay money over there”. At this moment, I thought it would cost between Rs100 to Rs500. I was shocked when I saw the final figure. She took a pencil and scribbled Rs1,500, with Rs500 for ACC, Rs500 for assistant commissioner of police (ACP) and Rs500 for the police inspector (PI).
I had told her that it was too much for simply forwarding a file and that I had to pay the local police station for verification anyhow. However, she told me that it was my problem how I dealt with the local police station. She further told me that if I paid the said amount, she would call the local police station and have it collected. Of course, I did not want to pay. So I came back and told her, “desh aap jaise logo ke karan barbaad ho gaya hai (the nation is in ruins because of people like you)”. When she heard that she laughed at me.
I returned home, with my hopes of getting the PCC all but dashed.
After 30 days of filing my PCC, I went to the local police station and asked for the file. They told me that they had it and I should collect it the next day at 3pm. The next day I reached police station at the stipulated time. I was made to sit on the bench outside of the verification room. After an hour, when everybody from the queue had finished their work, the police inspector called and asked me for my background and filed the report. He then told me, “de dejiye jitene aap ko lage (give what you feel is right)”. When I gave him Rs300 he refused. Then I gave him Rs500, he closed my file and asked me to come the next day for senior verification. When I went the next day, everything had gone smoothly.
Yet, after 30 days since verification, I did not get any call or SMS from the Passport Seva Kendra (PSK) to collect the PCC. The status still read: “PCC application is under review at Passport Seva Kendra" on the passport site. Therefore, I went to RPO on 12 March 2013. After standing in a queue for a good three long hours, I got the chance to meet the passport officer. She told me that they did not have information about the police verification in their database and that it is pending from the commissioner office, and therefore could not issue me the PCC.
I went to police commissioner’s office again and enquired about the police verification. The very same lady who had asked for the bribe earlier laughed at me. Apparently, she said that it had been sent it on 7 March 2013 and could not help any further. When I asked her to provide the details, she told me to get a letter, in writing, from the RPO. There was no guarantee that I would get anything from the RPO and waste another day doing nothing. I came back disenchanted.
I had complained and written emails to several officials at the ministry of external affairs (MEA). ([email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]). It was not until I was surfing Moneylife that I obtained the contact details of social activist and staunch RTI activist, Vinita Deshmukh. When I contacted her, she advised me to file an RTI. So, on 21 March 2013, I stood in a queue at the RPO. I called Vinita and she told me that I had to go to the first floor instead. Therefore, I went to the first floor and contacted the public information officer (PIO). An old woman arrived and suggested checking the status of the PCC before submitting the RTI. She found out that, the PCC was indeed in the RPO database and that there was no need to file an RTI. She instructed a peon to scan and upload the record, and told me to wait for five minutes. After just 10 minutes, I got my PCC. I am deeply grateful to Vinita Deshmukh for helping me, whom without her help I would not have achieved success.
Check the Peyush Rai story written by Vinita Deskmukh over here. : An RTI application gives Peyush Rai his passport even before submitting his plea
Check below for the entire Moneylife coverage on the Pune passport problems, including TCS role in making life for the ordinary person difficult:
• Moneylife Impact: TCS swings into action to ease some difficulties faced by Pune passport applicants
• TCS refuses to share in public, Master Service Agreement with MEA for its passport venture; says it will consult its legal cell
• TCS assures smooth passport delivery system
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