I was at the RPO Chennai couple of days back to get my passport renewed. I had a very good experience last time as to the service levels, so I was very enthusiastic to go this time. But the luck doesn't come your way always, I guess..
This time it so turned out that I had a miserable 4 hours at the RPO, Chennai. I went for the Tatkal Renewal after paying a princely sum of Rs2500/-. For that money, I didnt get any value or service from RPO. Having waited in the queue for more than an hour to enter the main processing area, as your luck turns out, you get stopped by the security guard when your turn comes. He asks you to wait for few minutes and that "few minutes" goes on to become half-an-hour. Then you enter the processing area and you find a Railway ticket booking counter set-up with terminals numbers A to J or something. You take sometime to figure out which queue to stand because not all queues process everything. I selected a queue and stood there for good 45 minutes before my turn came for processing.
Immediately when I gave my application form, the processing officer reviewed it and wrote something on the form and gave it back to me. For a split second, I thought, oh, God what mistake did I do with the form filling and the need to start from the scratch again.. Luckily it was not the case. The officer has written to get the PISON check completed. A big relief as I dont have to start again. She directed me to Room No.4 to get the PISON check done on my application. I could not figure out what the PISON check is all about. As I turned back to go in search of Room No. 4, I found out that a counter just 10 metres away is only Room No. 4.
There were already some 15 people standing before me for the PISON check. For the first 10 - 15 minutes you dont realise whether processing is happening or not as you are busy talking to your queue neighbours. No prizes for guessing what we talked about.. poor state of public service offices.. Then we realised that nothing has happened since the time we were in the queue. You start becoming restless and people started peeping into the room and find out what is happening. The people who entered that room were shown the door by none other than an armed Police Constable. I think a District Collector has come with his wife and kid for his passport renewal, so being shown all the courtesy as it goes with a IAS cadre. That family finally went out after 30 minutes or so.
The worst thing happened after that. The guy who was manning the counter cooly came out and said the system is not working. To use Captain Vijayakanth's analogy, "ennakku government office la pidikkathathu "system is not working". How come it worked for the IAS officer and not for us.. God alone knows. So we patiently waited for another 30 minutes for the system to start working again but that didnt happen. We were told that this PISON check would be done at a different counter. So people ran helter-skelter to the other counter and the pity is so many people who were in the begining of the queue were pushed to the back when we all went to the new counter. So sad but that is how things happen in India.
Here again we were made to wait for another 45 minutes and some 5 people would have been served before we were told again that the system is not working in the new counter as well. What is the problem with this system??? You get really bugged and annoyed. So were asked to go back to the original counter where we stood. But luckily the security guard this time collected all the papers along with the passport in the same order we were standing in the queue. A private security guard on duty at the RPO collects the papers along with original passport and takes it to some other counter. No officer is willing to take the responsibility!!
After the marathon wait for more than 90 minutes and moving from one counter to the other and back again at the original counter, my PISON check was completed. What is this bloody PISON check we found out during this 90 minutes of waiting. PISON stands for Passport Information System Online (never online but!!). PISON needs to completed for passports which are issued by other offices than the office where you have gone for renewal. I couldnt understand why the PISON check could not be completed by the processing officer in the computer in front of him.
Against my worries of standing in the queue again, I was advised to go and meet the processing officer directly for processing the application bypassing the queue. I went to the same processing officer who I met in the first place and she immediately completed the procedures and asked me to pay the fees. I paid the fees in a jiffy and came running out of the RPO. Not inside this building again for the next 10 years..