The Advisory Boar (page 3)
Thanks to Hassath's urging, I gathered up the courage to visit the RPO
once more, to apply for ECNR
status ("emigration check not required").
The information counter gave me a copy of
form #2 for INR5.
I filled it in, attached a photograph and a self-attested photocopy of
my matriculation certificate, waited in another short queue at counter
#12, submitted the application along with my passport and INR300. I was
told that my passport would be returned by 1300, and that I should wait
in another queue to collect it. But I got my passport back a whole
ten minutes before 1300, and the ECR stamp had been deleted; the
next free page had an ECNR stamp, and all was exactly as it was supposed
to have been in the first place.
It's good to know that I won't have to go back to the RPO anytime soon.
A couple of weeks after I
received my new passport
with the incorrect residential address, I headed back to the Regional
Unfortunately, I discovered that the RPO is closed on Wednesdays ("no
public interaction"), but the information counter at the back was open,
and to my surprise, I was told that I only needed to show up at room 10
(second floor) the next day with an application for the address to be
corrected. I did that, and waited in a queue for half an hour or so.
In room #10 was a stern-looking lady who put her initials on my
application without looking at it, and said I should submit it to the
"corrections counter" 1A (downstairs). I stood in another queue to do
that, and was told to submit a photocopy of the initialled application.
I stood in another queue at a kiosk outside, then rejoined the queue at
counter 1A. This time, my copy was stamped and returned, and I was told
the passport would be dispatched the next Monday.
The ECR stamp, however, couldn't be fixed at the same time (although I
was carrying all the necessary paperwork). The lady in room #10 started
breathing fire when I asked about it, and said I should have the address
corrected, and then come back again later to apply for the ECR status to
be changed (for a fee of INR300). My protests that their documentation
implies that a copy of the PAN card is sufficient fell on deaf ears.
The passport arrived by speed post today, with a hand-written correction
to the address on the second page. I'll wait a while to regain my energy
before the battle for ECNR status.
Update (2010-02-05): Only
one visit to the RPO was
Towards the end of August, I applied to
renew my expired passport.
I stood in a queue to submit the application, and returned home to wait
for the police to verify that the residential address I put on the form
was indeed where I lived.
A month later (to the day), a Sub-Inspector of police called to tell me
he was on his way. He wanted to see two separate documents proving that
I had lived at the specified address for a year or more. I showed him an
old lease deed and a recent phone bill for my MTNL land line. He was
happy with the deed, but wanted a phone bill that was more than a year
old. I didn't have one (because I send the whole year's bills to my
accountant at the end of the financial year), and I happened to not have
any other documents (e.g. bank statements) that he would accept instead.
He said I had three options: to produce the requisite proof somehow, or
to accept that my application would fail, and to apply again later when
I had all the right documents, or to "spend a little money" to ensure a
favourable police report despite my (partial) lack of documentation. "A
little" money turned out to be INR1000, and I didn't feel like spending
that on our friendly neighbourhood SI.
I had resigned myself to failure when Hassath suggested asking MTNL for
a copy of an old phone bill… and I suddenly remembered that the MTNL web
site (bless its soul!) allows me to download PDF copies of all the bills
I've paid in the past. I downloaded one, printed it out, cringed at how
unconvincing and unofficial it looked (even in colour), and called the
SI to tell him I'd found some proof. He accepted it, and went away to
file his report.
Today (about forty days after the police verification), I received my
new passport by courier.
But all is not well. The "7B" in my (independently verified!) address
has been printed in the passport as "73". But that's not all! There's an
"Emigration Check Required" stamp on the first page, even though I am
(explicitly and unambiguously) exempt from that particular restriction
by virtue of paying income tax and having studied in India past the
secondary school level. Oh well, at least they got my name right.
I wonder how many queues it will take to get this sorted out.
Update (2009-11-23): The incorrect address has been corrected
after only two trips to the
Ten years ago, I renewed the passport I got before I visited my father
at Cambridge when I was eight years old. I remember standing in a queue
for four hours before finally being told that I was in the wrong place.
I switched queues, but the second counter closed before I reached it,
and I had to go back and queue up again the next day.
That passport expired earlier this year, and I dreaded every aspect of
applying for renewal. But, thanks to a Hassath who also needed to renew
her passport, I finally got around to filling in the forms and going to
the Regional Passport Office behind the Hyatt Regency hotel in RK Puram.
(We filled in our forms together, but it later turned out that Hassath
needed a different form and had to join a different queue, while I was
in the bog-standard general category for renewal.)
One major difference today is that you have to queue up outside to get a
"token number" stamped on your application form by a counter at the rear
of the building. The applications are then processed by counters inside
the office in token sequence, and the current token at each counter is
displayed on electronic displays both inside and outside the building.
This helps to reduce queueing time, since the first counter only needs
to stamp a number on the form, and people don't need to go inside until
timetoken is nigh.
I arrived about an hour before the token counter opened at 0930. There
were some twenty people in line before me. I got my token (#17) by 1000,
then joined a very long queue of people waiting on the sidewalk to get
inside the office when it opened at 1030. This queue (which was the only
one in 1999) also drained very rapidly, because everyone just piled in
when the gates opened (the guard needing to check only for a stamped
form before letting people in).
While waiting inside, I realised that a lot of people don't understand
the token system. For one thing, the display boards are not cleared at
the beginning of the day, so they display some confusingly large numbers
(451) from the day before… but also some small numbers (35)
which are harder to distinguish from current numbers. Besides, parts of
each display don't work, and there are still always some people who try
to submit their application out of sequence. I overheard someone saying
You have to watch the display. Any number could come up at any
moment, and you have to rush to the counter when yours does.
(translating from Hindi).
The confusion helped me: several people missed their turn at a counter,
and #17 came up much sooner than I had expected. It took only a few more
minutes to submit my application, have the old passport cancelled (and
returned), and pay for the renewal. I got a receipt that says I can send
an SMS (but only during business hours!) with "PPT file-number" to 57272
to track the status of my application.
The application form for renewal was also quite easy to fill in (though
a separate "personal particulars" form must be filled in duplicate), and
one needs to produce only a few documents to support it (in my case, my
PAN card, a phone bill, and my old passport). While waiting in line at
the passport office, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it's even
possible to apply online: you fill in the form, get a custom-generated
PDF, and can submit it—without a token—at a separate counter.
Now I have to wait for the police enquiry (to verify my address and the
"I'm not a criminal" check-boxes I ticked on the form). Let's see how
long that takes.
Update (2009-11-04): I received my passport today, but
the story continues.