When you enter the passport office in Delhi, it is much unlike any other government building. Good architecture, bulky authoritative look, and entrance mostly teaming with parked vehicles.
The one distinct feature is that right from the guard to the people sitting inside the offices, everyone treats the applicants like cattle. And no, this is not a judgment.
See this: A lady with a letter of passport appointment enters the lobby. As she moves towards the door, the guard checks her appointment letter and voila, she has come before time. This makes her ineligible to enter the office. Here’s what she experiences next-
Opposite the entry gate is a small lobby with a sitting space for approximately 10 people. Looking at the crowd at any point in time, a passport office has atleast 50 people who need to be accommodated in the lobby. So the rest of the soles just make themselves comfortable by sitting on the floor. Some find a space on the stairs, at the onus of excusing 5 people every 10 minutes. Others try to find a space outside the office, with shade. The good thing with old government buildings is that there is a high probability that there will be a lot of trees around it. However, this does not hold true in case of this office (let me know if there are some better ones). A handful of passport consultancy shops surround the passport office. Most of these are temporary structures, big enough to man just 3 people and a couple of computers. A couple of permanent shops approximately double the size of the temporary structures, are run by egotistic owners who speak fluent passport language. The printouts cost INR 40 in the closest shed and the price reduces to INR 30 as you move a little farther. These small temporary structures promise to get most of your affidavits and annexures made. This ensures that atleast those visiting the passport office in Delhi, do not have to wander around finding the place which will make the documents Government wants.
Pareto’s 80/20 principle applies perfectly here, where apparently only 20% people are genuinely handling their roles to make the process possible. Others even go to the extent to making things difficult.
Don’t even try to talk with frustration in your voice. The people working in and around the building see hundreds of applicants everyday. So any apathy you experience is because they simply don’t give it a damn. What if the passport office website, never mentions that how to get the Affidavits made, unless you specifically dig into it, 5 levels deep, to end up in a pdf document, in which you might as well disappear. What if the website never mentions the application printout as the must have documents for getting you started with the process.
That’s to no one’s fault!
While approaching the passport office, I felt like I was about to get into an examination hall. The entire anticipation was about whether or not I will get through. And amazingly in this case, I could never be too sure.
Get some reputation management
So here’s what I have on mind. What if these government officials too were conscious of online reputation management? Atleast I could tweet them to ensure speedy response.
What if they had their lessons on Customer management, considering that it will only reduce the repeat visitors, making their work easier?
Why can the website not be created seamlessly, to ensure the ease of usability?
Why doesn’t the website and public offices monitor the user experience and amend it’s operations (in this case it has been outsourced to TCS, but that doesn’t in any way improve on the quality of service) based on performance?
Plain old employee management
If those people there knew they would be judged on efficiency, they would act smarter. If their incentives were dependent on reducing the time per successful application, they would find out ways to resolve the issues faster. If there was someone to check repeated mistake by the applicants, proper instructions could be used in the mails preceding the appointment. If someone cared to find out why educated people looking for passport miss on some vital documents every time, the answer might be in the usability of the process to find out exactly how to get those documents. Instead of small adjoining shops flourishing on passport advisory, it might be wiser to have a tollfree number to get the issues of the citizens sorted.
In the place where there is so much dissatisfaction and frustration, it easily gets on the people working there as well. A regularization of process with the intent of reducing stress could be a miracle medicine for the passport offices. Till the day that happens, I will know that getting a passport is an ordeal, that shakes an entire faith in the efficiency of government systems, and leaves an indelible mark.