Stop Corruption at Passport Police Verification.
Many people have to pay bribe to police or others to get their passports. In an online poll, 46% citizens admitted to having paid a bribe while getting their passport made. In the poll conducted by the citizen engagement platform Local Circles, 37% people said they paid the bribe during police verification, 4% paid it to the postman and 5% paid it to the passport officer via an agent. Passport is one of the most important identity documents in India. Getting a passport made had been a tough job for many years but the advent of technology seemed to have eased out some issues. Although citizens living in metro cities have found the process of getting a passport made or renewed to have become easier, it is still an uphill task for people living in tier II and III cities.
The entire process of passport verification is sometimes very slow and delivery of their passports takes a lot of time, creating a problem for those who need their passports urgently. Many passport verification requests remain pending with various police stations in the city and in some cases the police take around two, three, four, five months to complete the verification. Many also got the same after years of trouble.
And indeed, bribery seems to have seeped into almost all aspects of our lives and our society. More worrying than this trend is the normalisation of bribery – we have become so used to it that we have begun seeing it as a part and parcel of everyday life.
While in the Passport Seva Kendra, we interacted with other people applying for their own passports. While talking to them, we were surprised by how almost all of them said that the next process – the police verification – would involve bribing the police official else the process would take ages. We were shocked by how people talked about bribery with such complacency, as though it was a normal component of the process to get a passport.
“Nobody was outraged by it. It was disturbing. Bribery is corruption, it is illegal, but it has become so acceptable to the society.”
We had applied for Passport as on 8th Jan 2019, visited Passport office on 10th Jan 2019 and completed all the formalities as required. Up to this our experience was smooth & excellent. The problem started after this when we were waiting to be called for Police Verification from our nearest Police Station. Days passed waiting but nothing was happening. Our Patience Level was being tested. On 9th Feb 2019 we received a call for police verification. They asked us to come at the police station next day 10th Feb 2019 with all the documents.
Why it took 30 days to reach the files to local police station?
When the police contacted us, they first asked us to come to the police station for the address verification. Which was meaningless in itself – how can someone verify an address without visiting it in the first place? This needs to be stopped at any cost as people can be issued Passports without address being checked which can lead to serious consequences in future which might affect security and integrity of the country.
However we had completed the police verification and had to bribe the police officials in spite of having all the necessary documents with us as they forced us to bribe they otherwise the files will not get processed by them. The officials have become so used to asking for money that they literally negotiate the amount as if they are settling a transaction of sale. They did not give a thought about what they were saying. We also didn’t want to delay the process as it was already delayed by more than 30 Days now.
Upon completion of police verification the officials told us that they will be forwarding/clearing the files from their end within next 3 working days. After 3 days we were eagerly checking online status which was still showing as “Pending for physical police verification at respective thane under SP Office”. Every day would check the online status but it did not changed. Days passed, weeks passed & lastly a month also passed by.
As even after 30 days after completion of police verification the online status was not changed and was still showing as “Pending for physical police verification at respective thane under SP Office”.
We planned visiting the SP Office where the police officers have claimed to have forwarded our files. We asked the officer concerned regarding our files on which they replied “there are so many applications being received by us a regular basis and it is not possible for us to deal with each of them in a definite time frame. Your application was there in a bundle of documents, so it took time for us to locate it“
We observed that there might have been shortages of officials or they might not be performing their duties properly and diligently. Many times the officials are on leave and nobody is doing their part of work and so the pending files kept on increasing. There is shortage of manpower in the Central Passport Organization, to deal with the increasing demand for services. People coming from long distances had to be returned due to absence of the concerned people which costed these people with time, money & mental harassment.
Why no officials are there as backup option? It’s strange that the country is facing Employment crisis and there are shortage of officials at Govt Offices.
In many cases when the applicant visits the place they came to know that their application was on hold as the provided documents were not clear or they needed more documents or for any clarification on anything etc. Why the officials did not update these vital information’s to applicant via email or mobile if any documents are missing or any clarification is required on any documents provided to them? If the applicant does not visit the place they will not be able to get to know all these issues with their applications. It’s a really pity condition.
In many cases, it seems officials do not bother to check applications or solve problems faced by the people unless they are ordered by ministers or their masters. Many people twitted regarding delay in issuance of their passport and within a couple of day’s things turn around and they got their passports. Why it is so happening? Why nobody is doing their part of work for which they are being paid for?
Bribery is a serious problem in India:
Corruption is one of the most disruptive problems faced by the world and it needs to stop without further damage to the humanity so as to have a better future for the coming generation.
Corruption is a disease, a cancer that eats into the cultural, political and economic fabric of society, and destroys the functioning of vital organs. In the words of Transparency International, “Corruption is one of the greatest challenges of the contemporary world. It undermines good government, fundamentally distorts public policy, leads to the misallocation of resources, harms the private sector and private sector development and particularly hurts the poor.”
According to the latest findings (2017) of Transparency International, India had the highest rate of bribery among the 16 Asia-Pacific countries. Among all the respondents from the Asia-Pacific, 22% believed corruption had decreased, while 40% (41% in India) were of the belief that corruption was on the rise (more here).
The report reads that seven out of ten Indians had paid a bribe while accessing public services. In contrast, only 0.2% of the respondents from Japan reported paying a bribe.
In India, the respondents reported the highest bribery incident in procuring public healthcare services and even identification related documents. Almost 59% of the respondents had paid a bribe for such services. Bribes paid for education were next on the list with 58% having reported doing so.
In countries like India, Pakistan and Thailand, it was the economically weaker sections which had to bear the brunt of corruption and pay bribes. 73% of those who paid a bribe in India were from the poorer section of society, in Pakistan and Thailand this percentage was 64% and 46% respectively.
Citizens also suggested some ways to improve the passport making process. They suggested that a time duration be set for the police verification, police officers should be able to monitor the verification cases assigned to them on their smart phones, paperwork be reduced, the progress be made trackable online, old rules which cause confusion should be revamped and separate counters being made for different services like fresh application, re-issue, renewal etc.
We blame the system more than we blame corrupt officials. They are not the only corrupt police officers in the system, there are more of others like them, and we are sure. The system makes people like them feel powerful and makes the people entrusted with preserving the law to break the law themselves.
In many cases most of the Passport Police Verification Officer behave rude and frighten or scare common public in the name of government that if we don’t bribe or pay the verification fee (which is from Rs 500 to Rs 5000) our passport will be cancelled and even our voter right will be penalised. In one case, Lake Police Station Passport Verification Officer at Dhakuria, Kolkata has not only asked for bribe but also despite all documents were fine, they were reluctant to leave applicant house after verification unless bribed. Even the PVO officers did not show their identities on request. How could state and central government encourage such activities of Police? Is the government so shameless?
Police verification process has emerged to be one of the biggest sources of corruption and harassment for applicants of new passports in the entire process. The bribe was even justified in most cases as expenses incurred to make the trip from the police station to the house of the applicant and back to the police station. Many have reported on the portal that they were issued veiled threats that non-payment of a bribe may lead to adverse report or a delay in the report. The average bribe money ranges from Rs. 500 to Rs. 5000, in most cases, the analysis pointed out. The analysis of these complaints also showed that the process of police verification was not just a source of corruption, but also harassment to applicants. In most cases, the applicants are summoned to the police station for verification, in contravention to norms. “This often leads to harassment of the applicant. Many, especially women, are intimidated by these visits to the police station. In many cases the police often do not call in advance and fix an appointment resulting in them landing up at the door step when the applicant is not at home.
Israelmore Ayivor rightly said “You don’t necessarily need atomic bombs to destroy a nation. [Citizens] who value their pockets over the life of other citizens always do that every day.”
The Government of India, The President of India, and The Prime Minister of India should take effective measures to stop all forms of Corruption from India & Both Central & State Government of India and every individual of our nation should contribute so as to bring the much needed change in our country for the overall Growth and Prosperity of the nation.
Besides these there should be collective efforts from the public to prevent corruption. Hope all the Officials of Government of India (Central and State) and every individual of our nation can and will definitely bring the much needed positive change in India. An Awareness mail from a Well Wisher of our Nation who wants to bring a change for the betterment and growth of our great nation India.
Asha Kanta Sharma
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