Naresh Kevalramani, a passport applicant from Pune has been seeking appointment online for the last whole week but did not get it. He has been assured an appointment by a passport agent. Will TCS and the Regional Passport Office still blink despite this evidence?
The trauma of getting an online appointment after an applicant has filled his online application form for getting his new passport or renewing passport continues to haunt citizens in Pune.
While the efforts of the Pune Passport Grievance Forum (PPGF) has resulted in sporadic efficiency, the overall dismal picture of online appointments evading the applicant for weeks, the pre- and post-police verification issues continue. Similarly, the “hell care” attitude of citizens at the Passport offices run by the ministry of external affairs and the Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) respectively has also been reported.
Following is an example of a forthright citizen Naresh Kevalramani, who has applied for renewal of the passports of his wife and son, but has not been able to get his appointment online since the past week. Finally, a passport agent assured him an appointment. Kevalramani has shown guts as a citizen to come out in the open and forward the email of the passport agent, instead of keeping quiet and getting his personal work done through these means. If many more Kevalramanis come out in the open, exposing passport agents, it could make a difference.
Kevalramani has been writing these emails to me in my capacity as the Convener of Pune Passport Grievance Forum. Reply to his emails and subsequently his emails to me have been copied to senior officers of TCS—Tanmoy Chakrabarty, Pradipta Bagchi, Ashis Babu and Manoj Raghav, as also to Muktesh Pardeshi, Chief Passport Officer; Shakuntala Rane and Regional Passport Officer. However, none of them have had the courtesy to reply.
Finally Kevalramani wrote to a passport agent called Sahil:
“On 2/26/13, Naresh Kevalramani <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote: Hi Salil, Can you help me to book appointment for PSK Pune.
Kindly inform the charges.
Sahil writes: From: SahiL <email@example.com>Date: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 11:29 PM
To: Naresh Kevalramani <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: PSK Appointment
Thanks for your mail. Sir i can book an appointment for you at Pune PSK, for this the charges shall be Rs200, and you have to pay this amount after the booking of appointment, payment options:-
SBI & AXIS BANK, by net banking or directly deposit to these banks account.Plz. Reply ASAP”
I have forwarded this mail to the TCS and MEA’s passport authorities stating: “Oh my God—this is shocking Nareshji. Mr Raghav and Ms Rane could you please take immediate action on this agent? If not, it means there is a nexus between your employees and agents who are TOTALLY ILLEGAL!
The following mail trail between Kevalramani and me reveals the trauma passport applicants face:
“From: Naresh Kevalramani <email@example.com>
Date: Monday, February 25, 2013 3:26 PM
For the last one week, I am trying to get the appointment for passport application filled in for my wife and son (case of passport expiry). I find that the appointment are begun to be allotted around 3 pm and within 4 to 5 minutes all slots become full and the system is shut down.
I do not understand as to how I can get an appointment. I am trying for the last one week but unable to get the appointment. Twice I was successful but as soon as I selected the timing, I was logged out. Kindly help.
My reply/forwarded to Regional Passport Officer, Shakuntala Rane and Kevalramani:
“Dear Mrs Rane,
Please find below a complaint by Mr Naresh Kevalramamani who is not getting his online appointment. I am asking him to ‘walk-in’ at your office. Please do the needful
cheers and warm rgds
Dear Mr Kevalramani
Please visit the Passport Office, Senapati Bapat Road, during working hours of any working day and get your appointment there. I suggest you visit the passport office and meet Ms Rane, Regional Passport Officer or Ms Arora, Assistant Passport Officer, both of whom are very open to addressing complaints and will surely give you an appointment immediately. You may call Ms Rane or Ms Arora on 020-25675419. If you don't get thru her landline no. you may call Ms Rane on her cell no 08xxxxxx2.
All the best,
Kevalramani’s response to me:
Thanks for your prompt response and support.
I again tried today to get the online appointment. I was online since 2.45 pm on my broadband connection at home which is a AIRTEL 2 MBPS speed connected to my computer (Apple Mac Book Air) so no hardware or software issues. Only one laptop connected to the connection.
Today, I selected the time of 12.30 to 12.45 pm for 05 March and when asked to put in the confirmation code I put in the same and waited for the appointment confirmation. Instead of getting the confirmation I was logged out of the system. The system closed at 3.04 pm saying that all appointments are full today. So in effect one gets only 4 minutes to book the appointment which is impractical and unrealistic.
The same thing has happened twice before and I do not understand what type of a system this is built by TCS.
In fact when the application form is submitted on line the appointment should be given, the appointment can be for a later date say 15 or even 20 days later. Trying to get the appointment is becoming a daily ritual with no success.
I see a number of people who have been marked a copy of this mail. Can we citizens of India expect a realistic and practical system of working rather than this 4 minute slot everyday.
Await response from any one of the above people who have been marked copies and are part of the system.
My appeal to TCS officials since e-governance is their responsibility:
“Dear Mr Bagchi and Mr Raghav
This is a very serious problem and common occurrence. Pl immediately address this problem. Please treat this as SOS
Kevalramani writes to TCS officials with cc to me:
“Dear Mr Bagchi and Mr Raghav,
Though I am not a software engineer but an avid user of Internet since the last 15 years and use the net extensively for banking, online air and rail ticket booking, bill payments, etc.
Nowhere, I have seen such a system wherein the user makes the selection (in this case the appointment time) and is immediately logged out or that slot taken by some other individual. Even for airlines/ trains/ cinema tickets, I recollect that the slot (reservation) is available for 5 minutes for the user to confirm and proceed ahead with the payment.
Anyway, I am an individual and will somehow manage to get the appointment by personally meeting the passport officers but as a system, this needs a drastic improvement to make it user friendly and instill confidence in the citizens that passport application process is an easy process and not a pain, as currently it is.
My reply with cc to TCS officials addressed in Kevalramani’s mail:
“Yes, many passport applicants are frustrated at this inability to get appointments. I urge the RPO and TCS officials to check whether there is an alleged nexus between the agents and employees of the Passport office. How is it that agents can assure appointment and get it done immediately? I am sure this is not rocket science and if TCS has the will, it can immediately solve the problem. This is sheer citizen harassment.
Please take action, Sirs.
Kevalramani after trying for an appointment again, writes a mail to me:
“The same sequence of events happened today….
I selected a time slot of late noon hours and filled in the security code (the alpha numeric code seen on the captcha), immediately after this the system logged me out and on the second attempt to login and get the appointment, all appointments are booked.
The system was open for exactly 4 minutes.
Can somebody from TCS advise and tip me on the trick to get the appointment ???????
Finally Kevalramani writes to a passport agent called Sahil
Pasted below the correspondence I had with one of the agent who has openly posted on a website saying that he can manage appointment for any PSK in India.
I asked him his charges and sent him a mail yesterday evening which was promptly replied by him confirming the charges at Rs 200 for each appointment made by him. Payment to be made after the appointment is booked.
You can also send him a mail and ask him his charges.
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(Vinita Deshmukh is the consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)
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