A Big Mistake – Dealing with Indian Government 101
While traveling, its sometimes the little mistakes and events that cost you dearly. For us, it has been a smooth ride but we finally had to deal with Indian Government for a passport renewal and it was like peeling an onion!
While planning our travel, we did a quick check of our passports to see the validity. Both of us had passports valid for over 2 years. We didn’t check anything further. It was only while in India that we realised that Shruti’s passport did not have enough pages for all the visas and stamps. Bummer!
Therefore, like pilgrims going to Vaishno Devi, we decided to go to Mother India barefoot to climb the mountain. In the process, both of us and our parents had to cry to get the boon.
Go back to where you came from
Our initial questions from government officials revealed that we had made a mistake of coming to India and wanting to get a passport in India. The Indian government does not provide extra copies of passport for exhaustion of pages. One has to go through the entire process of getting a new passport. We were told “Why did you not do this in Australia? It would have been much easier”.
The pain we went through for renewing Indian Passport in India is combination of applying for a new passport and requesting for a visa for country. You need to be a resident for more than 1 year or if not, you need to get a high ranking government official to sign a document stating that you are of good character. As we couldn’t prove the former, we had to go with the latter option. Additionally, we had to make sure we had ALL the documents, including the ones that are not listed in the checklist, ready because they could ask for anything.
While preparing for travel, we got all our documents photocopied and signed by the JP. However, we didn’t bring the original marriage certificate. This proved to be a real problem as a govt. official told us “How do we know you’re married based on a photocopy”. In addition, my being Australian also proved to be a hassle as there is a problem of fake marriages between Indians and foreign citizens especially UK, US, Australia, Canada etc.
What Hague Convention?
At this point, we had to contact my mum in Australia to send us the original marriage certificate signed by Australian DFAT to say that our marriage is valid in Australia. Once mum had this, she had to take it to Indian Consulate for attesting. However, they refused to attest saying that it was already apostilled by DFAT and was legal in India.
On the other hand, the passport office in Mumbai told us that they would not trust an Australian Document unless it was signed by the Indian Consulate. Now, this created a problem for mum as she couldn’t send us all the documents until attested and Indian consulate would not attest.
At this point, mum did the Great Indian Mother Tantrum at the Indian Consulate and told them her kids (Shruti!) was not able to get a passport until they attested the documents and she won’t leave until they accepted the application. It seemed to work as the document was attested in 2 days!
Jobs for the people
Once we had all the documents in hand, Shruti filled in the application and once again went to the passport office to try our luck. Different officials asked Shruti for different documents and she was ready for this. However, one official asked her to present the husband. Therefore, I had to go show myself.
However, it was still not over. More officials asked for different things including changes in the application, passbook (remember these – a written record of money transactions in the bank account) and more documents. She left at 9AM and we returned at 4PM after submission.
We realised that unlike in Australia, each official in the government offices only has 1 job, like checking the documents, entering the details in the record or scanning documents. It was quite inefficient as the applicant is forced to go from table to table and present themselves to each official.
Mistrust within government
Once the application was submitted, we had to do a police verification. A senior officer visited Shruti’s parents place to see that we were living there. Then, we had to go and show the documents at the police station to a junior officer. This was again inefficient. It seemed as if the Indian Government has a mistrust within itself. Ministry of external affairs has already seen and accepted the documents but Ministry of Home Affairs, through Maharashtra police, had to check the same documents twice. Learn from Germany, Modi Sarkar!
To be fair, Shruti’s case was a bit unique from the start. We should have renewed the passport in Australia itself but we made a mistake of not counting the empty pages. We are thankful to the officers who helped us as well as our parents. Although most of the passport application process is now online, there were still some inefficiencies within the process which can definitely be improved.