Well, the post title still belongs to the old post (scroll below for the old Passport Seva Kendra Review)! It’s unbelievable how things have taken a U-turn with respect to the PSK service since my last review more than three years ago. Yesterday, I had my passport renewal appointment at the Marathahalli PSK branch again and I had to spent exactly 5 hours before formalities were completed but not before witnessing some argument between officers and the frustrated citizens.
Although I have already explained the procedure earlier (scroll down), let me summarize the steps and problems faced at the PSK offices once again here.
Problems that you face at every Stage
After taking the online appointment and uploading the documents, the following are the stages that an applicant has to go through.
1. When you show up at the reporting time, you join a queue outside the building and the security person checks your printout with an ARN number to make sure that you belong to that particular time slot and date. This phase hardly takes 15 minutes assuming that you are reaching 10-15 minutes prior to the reporting time.
2. After you are allowed in, you join the one of the token counter queues where your documents – photo copies are quickly verified, a physical file is created and a token issued. There are separate queues for normal applicants, passport denied in first chance and senior citizens/women with babies etc. This desk is handled by TCS employees and your token is issued within about 15-20 minutes.
3. You now enter the waiting lounge which has reasonable number of seats for you to relax. There are minimal refreshments and water available here. This is an improvement area as applicants have to spend hours together in the building. From the waiting lounge, when your number is called out (as well as displayed on LCD), you enter the ‘A’ counter. Another improvement area is the way token number is coded. They are coded across several categories S, N, T, W etc and nobody knows why it has to be so. That has to be purely internal matter and not something that the common man should know. Further, there has to be audio announcement due to which people have to stare at the monitors for hours together. There is photocopying facility available here as well.
4. The ‘A’ counter is where you have to submit all your documents, old passport (if any) and a system file is created for your application. Your photo, thumb impressions and signatures will be taken here and majority of the system activities happen here. This is again handled by TCS and they have deployed 20-24 people in the ‘A’ counters. The process is smooth and pleasant TILL ‘A’ counter. You may spend hardly 10 minutes till here. So till ‘A’ counter, you would have spend a maximum of 30-45 minutes and you would naturally expect things to be completed in another half an hour BUT you are in for surprise!!!
5. ‘B’ Counter or verification counter: After, the ‘A’ counter procedures (TCS staff driven procedures) are over, you suddenly enter a place where you have to stand (another improvement area – very minimal sitting facility for about 20-25 people where as about 150 people are standing there). The number of ‘B’ counters are only 6 off which usually only 3 operates. This place belongs to the government staff who verifies all your documents, photocopies and passports and supporting evidence if any. Since about 24 ‘A’ counters suddenly converge into 3 ‘B’ counters, you can imagine the mess there. You typically end up spending 1 to 2 hours in this counter. It was two hours in my case! And sometimes, the staff – one person especially – even shouts at you if you miss your turn (which will be again inserted into the queue within a few minutes and hence none of his worry. He’s anyhow, not holding any physical file as you are doing it. Everything appears on his screen as per the token)
6. After your documents are verified, you move to the ‘C’ counters where passport granting takes place. There are four such counters operational and they are all manned by ‘very old government staff‘ who takes minutes together to do small things on the computer. As we were standing, one of the old ladies at the counter went for lunch to come back only after one and half hours. People literally shouted at her! This counter along with the ‘B’ counter is a huge improvement area. By the way, if you have a passport issued in Bangalore, instead of the ‘C’ counter, you will be sent directly to the Assistant Passport Officer’s cabin (AP01 counter) for faster approval.
7. AP counter: This is a relatively fast process as passports issued in Bangalore, will be granted pretty quickly for renewal. He’s a nice person and seems to be doing his job diligently without any fuss. However, to get your turn called at the ‘C’ counter or ‘AP’ counter, it takes about an hour (sometimes more) again. Your physical file is taken back at AP or C counters after approval or rejection.
8. Finally, you exit at the ‘Feedback’ counter where you will be issued a receipt for your reference and you wait for the police verification, if any and the passport to finally arrive. Surprisingly, the security lady there demands for a feedback and says ‘feedback’ is mandatory!!!
(New) Pain points – Summary
- I am not sure why the process is still asking for two photocopies each of your documents in documents while they take only one set of copies. What a waste of paper!
- While the photo quality taken at the counter is good, why not allow uploading of your good quality digital photo along with your online application? They have to verify it anyhow at the counter
- Some of the government officers at the ‘C’ counter need to be replaced by young people. They are too slow for this job – further, there has to be backup available when someone go on leave
- The token announcement must be available in audio and streamlined to call out just numbers not coded (as in S, N etc). Nobody can stare at the screen for 3 to 4 hours from weird angles while standing in that crowded office
- More number of seats need to be provided at the ‘B’ and ‘C’ counters than the waiting lounge itself because that’s where you end up spending 3 or 4 hours.
- I personally do not understand the need to have ‘B’ and ‘C’ as separate counters. Ideally, the government process should be done in one step as verify and grant. Looks like, it is maintained only for historical reasons or to protect certain job grades!
- Provide an easy way to make corrections and typos. Although, I submitted the online form with corrected names, for the renewal of passport, they said they will continue with old names despite having supporting documents with me!!! Strange….
- Aadhar validity: Biggest pain point. If you have got an Aadhaar card if you have cut it across the line as the government suggest to make it a proper card, beware! The passport officials will ask for the remaining portion of the Aadhaar to consider it valid for identity or address proof. That’s really height of it! Some people had to go back because of this issue
That’s pretty much cribbing for now. My knees are already swollen and paining after standing at the PSK yesterday for more than five hours…
The old post continues…
Today is an memorable day for me as a citizen of India. On this day, I experienced the best ever quality service possible from a government organization i.e. the Indian Passport application via the Passport Seva Kendra in Marathahalli Bangalore.
The Passport Seva Kendras are part of the pilot project by Ministry of External Affairs (MEA_, Government of India. This project aims to speed up and simplify the passport application process and is now available on a pilot basis in Bangalore and Chandigarh. Applying the passport online is better than ever before and I will tell you why.
The new smooth process of Passport Application – Online
The following is what I had to do to obtain passport, for my children, online.
Step 1: Go to India Passport Website and signup for a user account. Make sure that the Date of Birth of the applicant accurately – this will be matched against the appointment later.
Step 2: Download the eFile PDF application form and fill in your details offline. In the offline PDF form itself you can validate your entries and once you validate it you will get an XML file that you can upload to your account. In addition you have to upload the scanned copies of your address proof, date of birth proof etc. For every category of applicants (e.g. children under 15, NRI adult etc) there is online help available as to which documents are required to be uploaded.
Step 3: Once the valid documents are uploaded, take an online appointment for your nearest PSK (Passport Seva Kendra). In Bangalore, the Marathahalli Passport Seva kendra is supposed to be the best. You will usually get an online appointment within 10 days of uploading the application form and supporting documents but you also have the option of walking in the very next day.
Step 4: On the appointment date, be present 10-15 minutes before the appointment to first validate your appointment at the security gate. Remember, you DO NOT need to carry your photograph copies. After the appointment validation, you obtain a system token and wait in the lounge to be called. The token numbers are displayed on large LCD screens and that tells you the impressive speed at which they handle their customers. You ideally will not wait for more than 15 minutes before your number is called out. Move to the desk number – there are more than 50 of them and provide your photocopies there. If you forgot to take photocopies, you can obtain high quality photocopies in the lounge at Re. 1 per copy.
At this desk, you will pay the fees, take your thumb impressions and the digital photo. The desk assistant then will bundle all these together as a neat file and you have to proceed to the passport official who will check the originals against the copies.
As the last step, the grant officer (Assistant Passport Officer, I think) will grant you – or seldom reject – the passport. You can check the status of your passport application online as well. Before moving out they will hand over an acknowledgment to you.
Typically kids passports are sent out within 3 business days and adults’ (or wherever police verification is required) within 5 to 7 business days. And that’s extremely fast!
What I liked about the Marathahalli PSK and overall service?
- Well trained, young and extremely friendly staff at the front desks. They are very well motivated as well, even the security guards there are friendly
- Extremely fast handling of files from desk to desk
- Priority queue for the physically challenged, senior citizens, pregnant ladies etc
- Very good infrastructure – including photocopy service, sitting lounge, display/announcement systems, paid parking and number of desks
- The online systems are more or less bug free and functional most times. It’s developed and supported by Tata Consultancy Services, I was told
Overall, it was a very pleasant experience – a pleasant surprise really.
There are hardly any improvement areas. However, I thought, once you already submitted the documents online, they didn’t have to reload them once again. I saw the lady doing it once again. Perhaps a bug?
While in most cases, there are only 3-4 documents required, sometimes it could be 5 but the online system allow uploading of only 4 documents per passport application form. Also, the address line length in the online form is slightly short.
At the moment, there are four such PSKs in Karnataka. I hope that every state will soon get 4-5 PSKs to make the passport application process smooth and super fast. We, Bangaloreans are privileged for now.
Having lived in Bangalore for more than 12 years, I have been a big fan of Shri. S.M. Krishna since he was the Chief Minister of the state. Now, I am extremely delighted that his leadership in the MEA has resulted excellent improvement in the passport application process. I wish him and his team the very best and a big THANK YOU for making our lives easier.
For those who are in Bangalore, I suggest that you visit the Marathahalli PSK than the Lalbagh one which is still building some of the facilities I hear.
Way to go MEA!