This is a continuation from my last post. When I applied for my passort in mid 2001 at Mumbai, my only aim was to have an identity proof in Mumbai, as I had been studying and then working there. I had completed one year in a working women's hostel while working and they could provide me the necessary residence proof (the most important document !).
After applying for the passport at Mumbai, I waited for the police verification but none happened. I was told by my room-mate, who was working for a travel agency who organised package tours for international trade-fairs, etc., that I myself needed to go to the police station to get the verification done. She was well aware about these procedures regarding passport and Visa because of her job.
After some time passed, one evening, after office, I personally went to the police station with all my documents to get the verification done. I was told by the concerned police officer to fill a form and bring certain documents. I took everything the next time. The concerned police officer again asked me to bring some other documents and photograph. Again I took it the next time. My room-mate told me I should just pay him something and my work will get done. The police officer did not ask me anything openly and I was not willing to offer anything as I had all the relevant and correct documents. Why should I pay him for something that was his job and on top of that they had not even come for the verification. Now I don't remember exactly how many times I went to the police station, and that too, alone, after office, and how many phone calls I made to the police station get the police verification done. Finally, I was told that the police verification was complete and was forwarded.
Again some time passed and no passport came. A few months had passed since I had applied for the passport. In the meanwhile I got a job in Delhi and I moved to Delhi. Still no passort came.
One day, after hearing this story about my passport, an acquaintance gave me the pamphlet of Directorate of Public Grievances, (Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India). This is "an administrative mechanism which facilitates individual citizens in obtaining fair and objective dealing of certain types of their unresolved grievances with specified Central Government Departments/ Organizations, in certain situations."
He asked me to send a written complaint here, which I did. I got a reply from there which asked me to furnish certain documents, which I did. I got a phone number of this department and an e-mail ID of the concerned authority. He asked me to fill the passport application form again and submit at the Delhi passport office. The passport application fees when I had applied in Mumbai was Rs.300/- and now when I was in Delhi, it was Rs.1000/-. However, I did not need to re-deposit any fee and although I had not completed a year in Delhi, still I was told to apply. This time the police came for verification promptly and did not even hint about any money in the form of bribe. My passport finally got made with Delhi address ... after about a year of my initial application.. without paying any bribe !!!
Ultimately, I stood my ground and did not pay any bribe. But I could do that only because I was in no urgent need of the passport. I have seen police verification happeneing of so many other family members and friends and everyone has paid to the police during verification - not because there was something illegal, or something was missing, but only because it has become a norm to pay the police - they ask either directly or indirectly as if it is their right and the only thing that is up to you is how much you can negotiate about it and finally how much you pay them.
Another episode relates to the registration of property. When I bought my house and went to get it registered, I had to pay a certain percentage of the property's registered value at the registration office- again, not because there was anything illegal in the property that I was buying, but just because it is a norm. My peoperty dealer had already told me about it. The officials there openly asked for it and said it was a 'fees' for them and the money gets distributed throughout the hierarchy. I did speak out there, too, but there was nothing much that I could do in this case.
Property deals are generally quite infamous for the corruption, bribery and black money involved. But it was amazing to see how even an important international identity like a passport can be made just by paying some money to the police !! But slowly, I guess, we become immune to these kind of things ... we just take these things for granted and we don't even think of raising a voice againt it. We talk about corruption and bribery that is prevalent in remote areas, in states like Bihar and UP, but what about our capital city and metropolitans like Mumbai ? Are they any less ? Are we safe from this kind of corruption and bribery while living in these metropolitan cities ?
*NOTE : Just in case it is of any help to anyone in need, the website of Directorate of Public Grievances is http://dpg.bharatsarkar.nic.in/