The Advisory Boar

By Abhijit Menon-Sen <>

Nonsensical DoT crypto restrictions

What are the regulations governing the use of cryptography and the development of cryptographic software in India? The answer is either "there aren't any" or "nobody really knows".

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My passport, at last!

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.

Renewing my passport, part 3

A couple of weeks after I received my new passport with the incorrect residential address, I headed back to the Regional Passport Office.

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 needed.

Renewing my passport, part 2

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 RPO.

Renewing my passport

It's somewhat easier now than it was ten years ago.

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