Service with lots of smiles!!!
Remember the last time you had to take a new passport, renew your existing one or do something simple like change the address on it? Unless you were giving it through an agent, it meant a lot of hassles. I remember leaving home before sunrise, getting DH to park in a narrow residential road and yet having to stand in a queue that was already almost a kilometer long. The worst part was that the tokens were limited and until you got to the front of the building and got that precious little token in your hand, you were never sure whether you would be able to step inside the office at all that day. And once you were inside, there were some grim officers in even more grim booths whose faces were hoardings for suspicion. Even if you had all the right documents and had completely honest intentions, the officers flustered you so much that you failed to produce the required documents in correct sequence and were made to feel about 2 inches high...
Not any more. I had read about new Passport Service Kendras (PSK) opening in different parts of the state and finally had the occasion to go to one when my passport was due for renewal. Out of habit, we met a passport agent who filled up my form and took copies of necessary documents. He then informed me that I need not submit passport photographs because they would be taken at the PSK. This was new. And he also told me that he would inform me about my appointment later, again, another new thing!
So on the appointed day, I collected the completed forms from the agent and presented myself at the Vazhuthacaud PSK. I expected to find the place by dint of a long queue and general pokiness, but was pleasantly surprised to find very courteous security personnel who verified my appointment slot, checked me with a metal detector and ushered me in to an air-conditioned, well-lit hall. I was amazed by the atmosphere of quiet efficiency with which all newcomers' applications were vetted by the personnel at the entry. I was issued a token and when my number appeared on the LCD monitor, I was ushered to a corresponding booth where a data entry operator made me verify all details on a wide computer monitor, took my picture, scanned in my finger prints and took the payment. Then I had to visit two more officers in their separate booths - all still according to my token number which appeared on the respective screens. There were no queues, no arguments, no pushing or shoving. Everyone waited calmly on the plentiful seating provided. If it had not been for a slight muddle in the supporting documents for my address proof for which I was sent back to data entry for a revision, I would have been out of the place within 15 minutes of my appointed time. The revision took just 10 more minutes and I was assured that the passport would reach me within 90 days.
Imagine my surprise when I got my passport exactly one month from the date of application. And I was also informed by SMS regarding the dispatch of my new passport!
Soon after I got my passport renewed with my address updated, I decided to do the same for my younger kiddo too. This time I was more informed and found the Passport Seva Portal and filled the online application form, made a note of the required documents and took a printout of the acknowledgment and appointment form. Then all I had to do was go to the PSK with our son and do a repeat performance. Again I was amazed by the polite and efficient service at the front desk. I had omitted to take a necessary photostat copy and was ushered to a copier on the premises (they have thought of everything!). We were through the formalities in a jiffy and this time in addition to thanking everyone who took care of us, I expressed my gratitude to the senior official at the end of the line for having received my own passport in a timely manner. Her smiling acknowledgment warmed my heart.
I was assured that our son's passport would be issued within 10 days as no police verification was required. It arrived on the seventh day! Yes, I got the SMS too. I know I won't be allowed into the PSK again without something official to do, so let me use my blog to thank all the officials at the PSK including the security personnel (who were very sweet to my kiddo) for their exemplary service. If there is any among you personally acquainted with a staff of the Vazhuthacaud PSK, please pass on my gratitude!
The only problem with the new system is - now we can't have those nicely "touched-up", blemish-free photos that were little works of art that the studios produced for us to put in our passports. What you look like in front of the data entry person's camera is what you get. I dearly wish I had taken some time to smooth down my bangs that day.... :-(
What the heck, I'll take the better service any day!