Passport office in Varanasi

Government has been trying to make the passport application process easier and they opened a passport office in Varanasi hoping that it will solve a lot of problems. I got my passport two years ago and I still remember that I had to wait for 11 months after applying for it. When I heard that we have got a passport office in Varanasi, I was so happy because earlier there was only one passport office for whole Poorvanchal region of UP state which was in Lucknow. I got to visit this office with my friend who wanted to apply for a fresh passport. The building looked new and organized and definitely it had all the unnecessary formalities which we usually find at Indian offices.

They did not even allow carrying any bags inside, no camera, helmet..The office looked hi-tech and full with young employees. Later I learnt that first step document verification and other inquiries are done by Tata Consultancy which was very good because private companies always work better than government. We did some inquiry about the process of applying the passport and asked for the form. They told us that there is no system of filling up the forms manually exists anymore and now everything is done online. You apply for the passport online by filling up the form and booking an appointment on their new website.

You the just supposed to bring all the documents on the appointment date and go for the interview. They have a website with the name Passport Seva Porta with all the information available on it. This new system sounded beautiful but I don’t really think that this is a good system for whole India, especially my region of Poorvanchal where thousands of villages still don’t have electricity, just forget about having computers or Internet. There are so many places where they have got computers but there is no Internet or if there is Internet then people just don’t know how to use.

And in any case the website is in English which is a huge problem for a lot of people. I was discussing about this issue with a few people and they told me that the people who don’t even have electricity or the ones who do not speak English or don’t know how to use Internet won’t ever need passport. But the fact is that there are thousands of uneducated but skilled laborers from Poorvanchal who go to Arab countries to work every year. If fact when I think about the people I saw at the passport office, it seems like most of them wanted to go to Arab countries to work and they were having huge problems with applying for passport online.

All of them were having some kind of problem. The website says that you need to bring certain kinds of residential proofs, identity proofs and other documents but the website doesn’t say that they don’t only need the original documents but they need a print out of the same document from the concerned government office website. When I had applied for the passport only my PAN Card was enough but now they want the original PAN card, a xerox of it with the print out of information available on Income Tax Department ‘s website about my PAN card. The same thing was there with all other documents.

Now they don’t entertain any document which has no record available online. For example driving license is not accepted anymore. All these formalities sounded like a huge problem even for a person like me who uses Internet all the time. I was thinking about all those people who had never used computers before. At the same time I met a gentleman who needed an urgent passport for his wife. He was working abroad and wanted to bring his wife also with him. He had his ticket booked after 15 days or something. Government promises to provide urgent passport within a week by charging some extra money.

He booked the appointment online and his appointment was issued for Varanasi office. He showed up at Varanasi office and they told him that Varanasi office is not authorized to take applications for urgent passport and he needed to go to Lucknow only which is like 10 hours by train from Varanasi. He went to Lucknow the same evening where he was told that since his appointment was issued for Varanasi office he needed to go there. He again came back to Varanasi office when I met with him. And again the same story. The people at the Varanasi office were saying that they were not authorized to take applications for urgent passport.

Now this guy was so angry, he was asking if they are not authorized to take the application for urgent passport then why do they issue the appointment and no one had any answer. They were kept saying that they could not help him and he needed to go to Lucknow only. Now this guy wanted to talk with some big officer and they were kept asking him to wait. He passed more than an hour waiting for some response and finally they said that no one would meet with him and he can do whatever he wanted. I was kind of scared after looking at all these conditions and was not sure whether one should apply the passport at the office or go to some agent.

I started asking to my friends if they knew some reliable passport agent and they told me about a person named Rehan Bhai who has got his office in front Diamond Hotel, Bhelupur. I went to him and he seemed thousand time more helping than anyone working at the passport office. He charged me only Rs. 1000 as his service fee but he offered me a lot in exchange of it. At first my friend did not have to fill up the form or anything. He informed us about the documents which were accepted nowadays by the passport office. We just provided him all the documents and he took care of the rest. He booked the appointment as well. He went online and printed the online records of his documents, booked the appointment, prepared all the documents in order, kept them in a file and handed it over to us. Now we just needed to go to the office on appointment date.

It hardly took us 2 hours to complete everything and yes, he promised that he will us the passport within two months because he had some connections with the officers working at the passport office. My friend reached to the office on the appointment date then everything was very professional. All the problems that we had to face were in the beginning stage. At the office he was sent to a desk where people were sitting with their computers. All the computers had two screen- one facing to the computer operator and other one facing to the applicant so that applicant could also see what information was filled in.

They asked my friend after filling each page to confirm if all the spellings and other information was right which was a very good system because in the past so many people had problems with the name or address printed wrongly on the passport  and with such system I don’t really think that it will happen any more. After this he had to meet with three different government officers who verified the original documents. It was really funny that one of the recognized that we were taking help of Rehan Bhai only by looking at the file. I asked Rehan Bhai about it and he told me that he writes some secret code somewhere and that is why the officer was able to recognize it.

Anyways, all the formalities were done. My friend hardly spent 30 minutes inside the office which was very impressive for me because I still remember the time when I had applied for my passport. But the most important thing is that we saved all the time and everything was so smooth for us only because we were taking help of Rehan Bhai. It would have not been possible to get the work done that easily without his help. Finally my friend received his passport also only within 2 months But I still feel sorry for all the those people who were at the office facing all the problems. Government of India has always been crazy and I definitely have no hope from them but I was not hoping for them to be this stupid of ending the entire system of filling up the forms manually. I think they should keep the both systems alive and have a help desk to fill up the forms for uneducated people.

I would like to share mobile no. of Mr. Rehan Bhai so that if someone looking for an agent or information regarding passport office in Varanasi, reads my post may contact him directly. His mobile no. is- 9415291050. He has an assistant also named Deepu whose mobile no is- 9336633322. Feel free to contact them as I already have their permission. I hope this post will help people wanting information about getting their passport without any hassle. Please don’t think that I am advertising for Rehan Bhai, his services were really awesome.

beggars in India

I worked with an anthropology student named Sophia from University of Berlin. I had already worked with her before a few years ago and it was my second time of work with her. This time she was not working for her university but for a big private publication company in Germany. She just wanted to interview different kind of people and listen to their stories. We met several different kinds of people but most striking news came out of the beggar community living in Varanasi. I had a shop few years ago near to Dashashwamedh Ghat in Varanasi and I knew that there was a group of beggars living near to Dashashwamedh Ghat so I took Sophia there.

I had already heard some crazy stories about beggars living there but had no idea how serious the condition was. They told us so many things but the worse story was about their sexual harassment by local people. We interviewed an old woman who told us that she was raped several times by a local bully who comes to them every night and rapes whoever he wants. There were several girls and all aged women living there and many of them said that this person rapes really young girls who are just 14-15 years old.

They went to the police several times but the police never entertains their complaint only because they are poor and they don’t have any connection in politics. A chai shop keeper who had a shop near to the place where this community lives also said confirmed it. When I asked him why locals don’t take any action against this person, he said that he is a big criminal and nobody can do anything, not even police. He also said that he comes almost every night, chooses any girl or woman he wants and take them away with himself. He doesn’t even take the girls at his home but he rapes just somewhere on the road.

I was shocked to hear all these things happening openly in my society. I just did not know what to do with poor beggars. They also talked about corruption in government policies for them. They said that Government of Uttar Pradesh also has a program for rehabilitation of beggars in Uttar Pradesh but there is so much corruption involved in it and beggars are not benefited by it at all. They talked about a housing program where government is providing free housing to the beggars but government officers ask for bribe in order to provide them a house which is built for them and which is supposed to be free of cost.

They said that government is asking for a lot of documents including local residential proof which sounds hilarious to me. How come a beggar can have a residential proof? They live on the road! This idea of asking for residential proof and other documents seemed really stupid to me. I was thinking about these corrupt government officers who don’t forgive even the beggars. They are begging from the beggars which means that they are bigger beggars. There is a saying in Hindi चोर के घर चोरी Chor ke ghar chori (stealing in thieves home) and now we need to start another saying- भिखमंगा से भिखमंगई Bhikhmanga se Bhikhmangai (begging from beggars).

Indian police

I completed my tour guide training in December and my license was printed in January. Now the Ministry of Tourism office in Delhi asked me to bring a police verification certificate from my local police station. The Police verification certificate certifies that there are no legal cases against me. Actually they had provided a proforma also and I was supposed to just go to the local police station and get it stamped. I went to my local police station with that proforma but the police officer did not want to stamp that document. He asked me to go to the DIG office and apply for a character certificate there.

By mistake I went to the some other police office instead of DIG office. I went there and told a police officer about the certificate I wanted and then he asked me why I wanted this certificate and I explained that I had completed tour guide training and now I need a police verification certificate in order to get my license. After hearing that I was a tour guide, this policeman told me “Oh, so your profession is to make tourists fool and fuck them”. I was really angry to hear this, I said my profession is a tour guide and then he said that its similar.

After asking a few other questions he gave me right address of the DIG office. I went to the DIG office and I was really surprised to see the condition of the office. The office was so dusty and dark. I met the officer who issues the police verification certificate and he gave me a form and asked me a fill it and submit it along with other documents. I was told by my local police station to take care of this officer which means to give him some money, so I gave him Rs. 100. After taking this bribe he told me to contact my local police station after two days.

He said that he will send my application to my local police station and they will verify my residence and other documents and then they will send their report back to the DIG office. I contacted my local police station and my application had arrived at the local police station. The officer at the local police station asked me to bring all of my documents. After seeing all of my documents, he said that it was not enough. He needed a domicile certificate issued by the court which I did not have and I knew that it would have taken me over 15 days just to get this certificate.

I had given him a xerox of my passport also which was enough but he said that a domicile was necessary. Fortunately there was an advocate sitting in the office who favored me and said to the police officer that a passport is also equivalent to a domicile certificate.  Finally this police officer agreed to accept my documents after the advocate’s interference. He asked me to wait for a few minutes. After that advocate was gone he again started looking at my documents and after reviewing them for a few minutes he told me that they would send someone at my place within the next week or so and after verifying my residence they will send their report to the DIG office.

I knew why he needed one week of time. I asked him if I was supposed to give him something and then he said that such works are not done without paying. I was told by a few of my friends that I should give Rs. 500 to the local police station so I gave him Rs. 500 but this police officer started saying that Rs.500 was not enough as there were 5-6 people to take a share in that money. Finally we agreed on Rs. 700. After taking this money something happened that I had never ever hoped for. This police officer taught me the right way to bribe.

He taught me that I should always take care of who is sitting in the office and try to bribe when there are not many people around and never ever tell this to any other officer working in the same office, this was very valuable information. Actually I had told him about that officer in the DIG office who took Rs. 100 from me and this local police station officer said that I should not tell any other officer whom I have already bribed.  Anyways, after taking bribe of Rs. 700 he said that my documents would be forwarded to the DIG office by the same evening.

I went to the DIG office and then the DIG office said that they would send my documents to the LIU (Local Intelligence Unit) now. My documents arrived at the LIU office after a few days and when I went there, the same thing happened which had happened with me at the local police station. First of all they said that they would send someone to my home to verify my residence but when I asked them how much I was supposed to give, the officer asked for Rs. 500 and said that nobody would come to my place anymore and my documents will be forwarded to the DIG office by the same evening.

But something really funny happened while I was sitting in the LIU office. Actually I got a call on my mobile about my guest house inquiry and this officer heard me talking. After the phone call he asked me if I run a guest house also and I told him about my guest house and he asked me I had a restaurant in my guest house or not and I said no. And he asked me where do my guests eat and I told him that usually they go out and after hearing it, he seemed kind of sad and told me he would have loved coming to my place for a meal if I had a restaurant.

I told him that I lived with my family and we cook our own food and he was also invited if he wanted to have dinner with us and he said no, he was looking for some restaurant cooked hot chicken with whiskey.  I obviously said ‘No’ to him but I was really surprised how someone could be that stupid. Anyways, after bribing him, I left the office and came back home. The LIU office had told me that they would forward my documents to the CO office. The CO office is a kind of regional police office. I think there are 5 or 6 CO offices in the whole Benares district.

I contacted the CO office after two days and this office was also nothing better than the other offices I had been to. I met an officer at the CO office and he asked why I had applied for my character certificate. I explained my purpose to him and then he said that they had already checked my day time character but they did not know anything about my night time character. He said that- “Now we know about your day time character but we do not know about how many woman and prostitutes do you sleep with in the night or how many bars do you visit every night”.

He said the same thing to other officers also sitting in the office that they had checked my day time character but did not know anything about my night time character and after hearing it, all of them were laughing. One of them said they should check my night time character also. I was seriously shocked and did not know what to tell him. I could not believe that a police officer could talk in such manner. Anyways, I asked him check my night time character also and then he asked me to contact them after a week or so. I again knew why he needed to check my night time character and why he was asking for one more week.

I immediately asked him about the bribe and he also the said same thing which the officer at the local police station had told me that such works are not done without money. Anyways, I asked him how much and he said just give anything. I gave him Rs. 200 and asked when they would check my night time character and they said that there was no need to check the night time character and my documents would be forwarded to the SP ( Superintendent of Police) office by the same evening. I contacted the SP office the next day and the officers said that they will present me before the SP tomorrow.

I went to the SP office next day and I waited for the SP for an hour and finally I was presented before him. He just looked at my face and asked me why I needed a character certificate and that’s all.  I hardly got to talk with him a few seconds but just for this I had to wait for a hour at his office. I requested that he forward my documents as soon as possible and he was very nice with it. He immediately asked his PA to bring my documents, signed and stamped them and said that my work was done. After meeting him I contacted his PA and asked if I needed give something to him also and he asked me to come the next day and see if my work was done.

He did not want to take the bribe until my documents were forwarded to the next office. I went to the office again next day he said that he could not do it. I again contacted him after two days and this time my documents were already forwarded back to DIG office. Now I was sure that I was going to get my character certificate because all the formalities were done and I had bribed all the offices. When I went to the DIG office, the officer there said that they could not issue my character certificate until some other big police office stamped my documents. He also asked me to contact him after a week.

I again knew why he needed one more week. I gave him Rs. 300 and requested that he do my work faster and then he gave me the address of that other police officer whose office was also in the same building premises. He asked me to go this office and wait until the officer came and then return to inform him when this officer arrived. I went to this office, waited for hours in the terrible heat and finally this officer showed up after three hours. I informed the officer at the DIG office and then this officer brought my documents to this big police officer, got them signed and stamped and then gave me my character certificate.

This character certificate was nothing special but a really small piece of paper saying that there was no legal case against me. It seemed like they had not printed new character certificates for the year 2010 because the year mentioned on the paper was 2009 and the officer had to correct it by pen. I still think about all the craziness and corruption I had face,  the way they mistreated me saying that my profession is to make fools of tourists and fuck them, one officer said they did not know about how many women and prostitutes I sleep with…

I had to spend Rs. 1700 just to get this character certificate which should be given free of cost. I had to wait for almost a month and go to all those crazy police offices several times. Just to get this small piece of paper I had to go to DIG office>local police station>DIG office>LIU>CO office>SP office>DIG office>that big police officer’s office>DIG office. I got my character certificate and later I presented it to the Ministry of Tourism office in Delhi and got my license but when I think of all the corruption and those people working at police offices and those officers who approved my documents and my character certificate, it makes me feel like my character certificate was issued my the most characterless people on the planet.

Driving License in India

I have gotten my driving license about 8 years ago but I thought to write my experience at the RTO (Road Transport Office) office today. Actually my friend was talking about applying for a driving license today and it made me remember my experience and I decided to write about it. I was 20 years old when I applied for my driving license so about seven years ago. The RTO office was about 25 KMs from the city area and the city transport system crazy as it is now so I asked my friend to take his motorbike to go there. We reached at the RTO office and this office also looked as crazy as other Indian government offices.

The office was so crowded, full with people and animals, believe me there were dogs and cows sitting inside the office premises. People were chewing paan and spitting all over the office, the whole floor was red because of spit of the paan. There were touts (commission men) wandering here and there, looking for new confused face like I had. One of them came to me and asked if I needed a driving license and of course I wanted one so I told him yes. And then he said that he would help me getting the license but he wanted some money for it.

My other friends had suggested me to not go to RTO office to get license as fake licenses were easily sold in the market but I did not want to do any illegal work. I had met an advocate asking about the procedure of getting a license and he told me that I could get it even without going to the RTO office only by giving some extra money. My advocate said that money is everything at RTO office, if you spend money, you get whatever you want, otherwise nothing. But I had thought to go to the RTO office and let things go on in front of me.

So I told that commission man that I did not want his help but he kept coming to me asking if I needed his help and I told him again and again that I did not want any help. We were looking for any information center but actually there was no such place where people could get any information. We asked someone among the general public about the procedure and they told me to get a form first. We went to the form counter and there was a long queue. I was in the queue for a while and when my turn came, I saw a blind person giving the forms.

I was surprised to see a blind person working with such an important work of giving right forms and dealing with money. Actually government has a scheme of providing jobs to handicapped people which sounds fine but giving forms and dealing with money job to a blind person? Well, he was doing fine. He had different kind of forms for different kind of licenses and other works and he had organized the forms in such a beautiful manner that he knew where what kind of forms were kept. I asked him to give a form for a learning license, they issue learning license first and after one month permanent license is issued, and asked him the price for it. He said Rs. 10 and I gave it to him and came out of the queue.

I was looking at the form and I noticed that print rate of the form was only Rs. 2. I went back to him asking why he charged me Rs. 10 instead of Rs.2 and he said that he gave me a wrong form by mistake. He asked my form back and as I returned him the form, he returned my money saying that form for driving license was already sold out and he did not have it any more. The commission guy I had met earlier showed up again saying that it is true that the print rate is only Rs. 2 but it is sold for Rs. 10. I did not have any other option than paying him Rs. 10.

So I offered him Rs. 10 and he just did not want to sell the form to me. Finally I asked my friend to go in the queue and get the form and this is how I got the form. We filled up the form and went back to another counter to deposit the fee. The counter was supposed to get closed at 2 PM and it was only 1.15 or something and the counter was already closed. I saw a fat lady sitting behind the counter glass and eating something. I asked her why the counter was closed only at 1.15 and she said that it was not 1.15 but it was 2.15. I told her that it was only 1.15 but she said yes, 1.15 but in my clock, it was 2.15 in her clock.

The guy standing behind me asked me to show her some money so I showed her a bill of Rs. 20 and she opened the counter and this is how I was able to deposit the fee. Now it was turn of a written exam but I was a little bit concerned about it because there is not traffic rule in practice in Varanasi and I was not very well aware of them. I saw other guys offering some money to the examiner and we decided to go for the exam first and then give money according to how exam would go.

Exam was not tough and I was confident that I would pass it. After the exam, I went to examiner and asked him to see I was pass or not and he asked me to come later. But then I said that I had not given any money to him and I wanted to make sure that I was pass otherwise I would give some money to him. He looked at my paper and said that I was pass. I think he was the only honest person I met at the RTO, honest in the sense that at least he told me the reality that I was pass rather than asking for a bribe by saying that I was fail. He asked me to come after three days to see the result.

I again went to the RTO after three days and saw the result and I had passed the exam. Now I was supposed to get my learning license. The person giving the license wanted Rs. 100 but I bargained and finally I ended up giving Rs. 50 and got my learning license. After two or three months, I went to the RTO again to get my permanent license. They put me in an interview. The interview was not tough at all. They just asked me my vehicle registration number and a few other basic questions. Actually they are supposed to put all the applicants in a practical driving test but they just don’t do it.

After the interview, they asked me to come after a week to collect my license. I went to the office again after a week and had to bribe an officer again. The officer giving the license looked at my name and asked if I was a Bramhin and I said yes and then he said that he was also a Bramhin and in fact he lived closed to my home but we did not know each other. He asked for a bribe of Rs. 150 but I did not want to give this much. I started bargaining by saying that I was a student but he did not want to hear anything.

He said something really interesting that he charges Rs. 200 to other people but since I was a Bramhin, same caste as him, he was charging only Rs. 150 to me but I had also decided that I would not him Rs. 150 for sure. We talked for a while and I finally I gave him Rs. 75 and said that this is all I had. He took this money and gave my license but asked me to not tell anyone that I had given only Rs. 75 as rate for others is different. I am happy that I have a license but I still think about that blind man, that fat lady and that crazy Bramhin guy who gave me discount only because I was also a Bramhin.

Sometimes I think that I should have given some money to my advocate and get my license at home but then I think that if I have to live in India then I must need to learn to bribe and that experience at RTO at least taught me how to buy a government officer in India. I always think that I will not bribe any government officer but when it comes to getting some work done, there is no hope at all and I bribe again and again. But I hope that technology will change something, maybe not in my life time but someday for sure.

Problem with 2009 Delhi election

It was election day in Delhi yesterday. Mr. Naveen Chawla, The Chief of Election Commission of India also went to vote and found that his name was not in the list. His name was in the deleted list. It became news and all the TV channels started talking about it. The employees of Election Commission did something and finally Mr. Naveen Chawla voted. It has always been a issue for general people that they go to vote and find that their name is not present in the voting list. How can this happen that they forget the name of the Chief of the Election Commission of India?

Later Mr. Chawla said that there was some confusion because he had changed his apartment a few months ago and that is why his name was also shifted to the other list. But everybody knows that it was only an excuse. Media people were saying that they had seen the list and his name was in the deleted list. Well, whatever the reason was, the Election Commission of India should not say anymore that they can organize elections well. Now it is good evidence for the world that proves the quality of elections in India.

Voting Day 2009 in Varanasi

It was voting day on the 16th in Benares. Everybody was supposed to have a voter ID card which is issued by Election Commission of India but again this year Election Commission of India was not able to provide the voter ID card to everyone; actually I also did not get it. Three days before elections, I read a article in the newspaper saying that voters could use 16 different kinds of documents instead of a voter ID card to vote. Since I also did not have a voter ID card, I went to vote with my ration card and PAN card (income tax card).

I went to the Assi crossing first where they had assistance centers of all the political parties. There were four assistance centers this year at Assi crossing- BJP, Congress, SP and BSP. I was supposed to get a slip that has my serial number in the voting list from any of these partyassistance centers. I looked for the least crowded counter so that I could get my work done quickly and Congress counter had the least number of people. BJP was the most crowded one. I got my slip at the Congress counter but thought to just visit other counters as well.

I saw something really strange- the Congress Party counter was offering breakfast to the people who were going to their counter which is an illegal activity. They had their counter on the main road but the breakfast place was inside a room. They were telling all the people to go inside the room, have breakfast and vote for Congress. A lot of people had switched from one party to another party this year. The people whom I had seen sitting on the BJP counter during last elections, were sitting on the SP counter this year. It’s crazy to see how these political people change themselves so quickly.

BJP candidate Mr. Murli Manohar Joshi had called me one day before elections. Usually they use computers to call people and they did the same this year also but some calls were made individually by people and I was lucky enough to receive the call made by Mr. Murli Manohar Joshi. First I thought it was a computer but the person on the phone was responding according to my questions to him. I am sure it was Mr. Joshi himself. Since I was in hurry at the time he called me, I could not talk to him much. I wish that I had time when he had called me because I would have loved talking to him.

He requested me to vote for a suitable candidate. He never told me to vote for himself but at last he said that he was Mr. Murli Manohar Joshi which was a clear indication of his request to vote for him. Obviously he was my favourite candidate and I voted for him but I would have loved asking him questions before voting for him. Well, next year.I went to vote and noticed that there was less security this year. There were hardly four or five security guards at the polling booth. Usually polling booths are full of security guards. It was strange.

All the different party people were telling me to vote for their party. A few people had Fevicol (a gum) and other different kinds of chemicals and they were telling me to put some gum or those strange chemicals on my finger before going to vote so that I could remove the ink easily off my finger after voting and make fake votes again for them in the evening time. All these people were counting the number of people who had not voted yet and would send someone from their party to vote in the name of the people who did not vote but I was happy with only voting in my name.

Please go to the election booth

I know that a lot of people have decided that they will not vote this year in the elections because they are completely fedup with the government. In fact, I was also one of them but I recently came to know about something interesting. Even if I do not want to vote, I can still go to the election booth and tell the officer that I do not want to vote and they will write my name in a different register which is specially for the people who do not want to vote and this way nobody else would be able to vote in my name.

All the political parties have a list of the voters of their neighborhood and they always see the progress of people voting. What happens is that different political parties have their own booths near the voting place and they have a list of all the voters. People go to these booths and get a slip where they have their name, address and other information written which is required to vote. People cannot vote without having this slip so they go to their favorite party counter and get their slip so usually these people at these kinds of counters know who has voted and who not.

Finally one or two hours before the end of voting they find the names of the people who have not voted, make slips in those names and send their guy to vote in the names of other people. Sometimes people go to vote and find that somebody else has already voted in their name and once a vote is given, nobody can do anything because there is nothing to prove that somebody else voted for someone else. But since this new beautiful system has come up I think it will be a big relief for the people who do not want to vote.

I would tell to everyone who does not want to vote to go to the election booth and tell them that they do not want to vote. This way their vote will be secured and will not be misused. So use this system and enjoy elections.

822-year-old-living person

Elections are coming and the Election Commission of India is working hard on getting voter ID card to all the voters. It’s a new system in India that all the voters should have a voter id card otherwise they will not be able to vote. The government always says that they will block any person who doesn’t have a voter ID card but every year two three days before elections news comes from the Election Commission of India saying that anyone can participate in the elections, even those who don’t have a voter ID card because Election Commission of India was not able to reach everyone.

The government has been spending a huge amount of money on this project but they were never ever successful. The funniest thing is that almost 50% of the voter ID cards have wrong information or some kind of misprinting. I often hear about these things but today I heard about a huge mistake that a human should not do. Amar Ujala, the leading Hindi newspaper of India, has published an article today (08/04/09) saying that the Election Commission of India has issued a voter ID card for someone named Ballu who lives in Muradabad and his age is mentioned as 822 year old.

He went to the Election Commission of India office but they did not have any answer and since elections are not more than 10 days away from now, Ballu will not lose his time by going to the office again and again to get a new voter ID card. He will use the same card and vote as a 822 year-old person. In the same way they have issued voter ID cards to Nanhi and Khurseed where they are mentioned as only two years old. They will also do the same thing- vote as a two-year-old girl. Their third mistake is that they have issued 424 voter ID cards on only one address, which means according to the Election Commission of India there are 424 people from the same family and same house.

When I got my first voter ID card, I still remember that my father’s name was printed on my card and the address was also wrong. I went to them to complain about it and they asked me to come back before a month of next elections, after five years, when they will start working again on this project. Even though the voter ID cards are issued by the government of India, they are not recognized as a residential or personal identity proof by any institution in India, whether government or private, only because of these terrible mistakes. The newspaper Times of India had published an article on the 24th of March about the same kind of mistake done by the Election Commission of India where they had issued a voter ID card to a twelve year old girl.

The Indian government is not smart enough to deal with issuing better voter ID cards but just to show off they are going to built nuclear power plants. With voter ID cards they are just supposed to collect good quality datas and print them on paper, and they can’t even do that propely. How will they deal with such a huge project like nuclear power plants??? I always wonder if India is ready for this kind of project where there is no margin for error or if our government is smart enough to deal with nuclear waste or nuclear power??? After looking at these kinds of mistakes, it doesn’t seem so to me, though.

Bribe, Bribe, Bribe…

I applied for my passport a few days ago. I was supposed to fill out a form and submit it at the passport office in Varanasi. I went to the office and presented all of my documents to the officer. I thought to look over the documents again before giving it to the officer and discovered that I had made some mistake filling up the form. I thought it would be a good idea to fill out a fresh form. I asked the officer there if he had a fresh form but he said that the office didn’t sell the form. It was crazy, no passport application for at the passport office.

He asked me why I wanted a fresh form and I explained my problem to him but he said that he knew how to solve my problem. He brought whitener and cleaned the mistake and asked me to over write there. I was happy that I did not have to go out and buy a new form but I did not understand why he helped me. I never expect a government employee to help people. I knew that there was something wrong going on. I filled out the form and gave it to the person present there but he said that let the officer come. I asked him if he was not a office employee and he said that the officer has hired him personally to help him.

I immediately understood that there was really something wrong going on. The officer came and stamped my paper and signed it. He was supposed to give me a receipt of the passport form but he did not give it to me, he gave it to that other guy. I asked the officer what should I do next and this officer told me to talk to the other guy. I asked him and he turned his face like a rotten mango and said something that I could not hear. I asked him again and again and he would tell something that I was unable to hear. I asked him to speak loudly and then he said please give something.

I did not understand what was he looking for so I asked him to be clear about what he wanted and then he said that he will have to send my passport application to the regional office in Lucknow and he needed stamp and postage charge. I asked him if government doesn’t pay for it and said ‘NO’. I am sure that it is the government’s part. I asked him how much the stamp and postage charges were and he said Rs. 200. I know that I can send a post to any Indian city from any Indian city for Rs. 10. So I told him that it was too much.

And then said that he will have to pay every officer whoever looks at my application and for this he needed Rs. 200. I bargained and gave him Rs. 100 and this shameless person grabbed this money from my hand like a hungry lion. He told me to not worry anymore. He promised that he will forward my letter to the other office by the evening time. It was really interesting to see how that creepy government officer has hired someone to ask for the bribes from the people. The officer did not want to do it on his own. It is very smart of him but very bad for India.

The next step in order to get my passport was to get a no objection certificate from the local police station. The passport office sends the documents to the SSP (Senior Superintendent of Police) office and they send the documents to the local police station. I went to my local police station to see if they had gotten my application from SSP office. I asked them and they told me to come back after two days. I met a person at the police station who had hit his something with his car about two years ago and police had taken his car. Today he had gotten the release order from the court to get his car back from the police.

I knew that the police would not give his car back without taking a bribe but I was wondering how they would ask for it because I was also present there. I thought they would be shy asking for a bribe in front of me but this shameless policeman completed his papers and passed it to the policeman sitting next to him. He said to the car owner, even very loudly, to give something to the next police man and take the car’s key. I was not surprised but couldn’t understand how shameless the our and corrupt our police is. He gave Rs. 500 to the policeman but he was not happy with it, he wanted more. As the first policeman heard it, he stopped his work and started talking to the car owner. He said that first of all you did not give anything to me and now you want to give only Rs. 500? It is not done like this. Finally they ended up with Rs. 700.

This first policeman told me that he hadn’t got my application yet and asked me to come the next day. I reached there the next day and this time he had my application form. He looked at all of my documents and then asked where was I born. I told him that I was born in Varanasi but then he asked my father village’s address and asked me to come back after ten days so that they could do an enquiry in my father’s village where I never lived. I asked him why did they want to enquire about me in a place where I never lived. And he said that sometimes people commit crime in their village also. It was crazy. I did not know why he was doing it and then I realized that maybe he was doing it to disturb me so that I would give him some bribe.

I told him that I wanted it as soon as possible and then he said that he knew some way to make the process fast and now I understood what this way was. I told him to use that way and then he immediately took me to the next room where the head of the police station was sitting. He interviewed me, and asked me several questions including who will pay for my trip to the US. Finally he attested my photo and I came out of that office with that creepy policeman. Now he took me to a corner and said that he also wanted something. I asked him how much and he said whatever I wish. I asked, “Rs.200″? and he said what can he do with Rs. 200.

And then he asked for Rs. 600. I had to give him that money because I knew that I will never ever get my passport if I had not made him happy. After this office I have to deal with LIU (Local Intelligence Unit), SSP office, the passport office in Benares and the passport office in Lucknow. I will have to bribe everyone and still maybe don’t get my passport on time. This whole experience made me very sad. I was wondering if there is any government work in India that could be get done without bribing government???

Sex workers bank and sanitary pad factory

Bank for sex workers

Bank for sex workers

Indian sex workers can’t open a bank account because they do not have any residential proof and there is no one who can be a guarantor for their bank account. It is a strange rule that I do not understand that Indian banks askall of their customersfor a guarantor and this guarantor could be anyone who already has a bank account with the same bank. In case if someone doesn’t know anyone who has already a account with the same bank, they can’t open a new bank account. Indian sex workers lack both things- a guarantor and residential proof.

Sanitary napkin factory

Sanitary napkin factory

So it used to be really hard for them to open a bank account. They were never ever able to save the money. Their savings were often looted, sometimes by the brothel owner and sometimes by their clients. Durbar wanted them to start saving and to do this they asked the Indian government and a few banks to let the sex workers open their bank accounts without bringing any guarantor or any proper residential proof but neither the government nor the banks agreed with it. Finally Durbar asked government to give them a license to start a co-operative society especially for sex workers and finally after a long struggle they got the consent.

A sex worker working with the napkin

A sex worker working with the napkin

Now Durbar has started a co-operative society only for sex workers and there are twelve-thousand sex workers saving their money with this society. This society works exactly as a bank- it provides loans and everything. A lot of sex workers are not allowed by brothel owners to go outside the brothels but they also wanted to have a saving account so for them Durbar’s workers go from one brothel to the next one to collect the money. I went to their bank also and saw a lot of sex workers coming to the bank in person and doing banking. Now the sex workers can save their money with this bank which is obviously a big help for them. And it’s only about saving, they can even take loans also whenever they need.

Bunch of napkins ready to be packed

Bunch of napkins ready to be packed

In the same bank building they have a small shop for sex workers where they sell all daily use stuffs for cheaper than the market rate. This shop is only for the sex workers. They have a section for out of the community people (not sex workers) also where they sell small stuffs like toys and clothes made by either sex workers, their children or someone from their family. We also did shopped there. I really loved this idea of a bank and shop for sex workers. Durbar has done awesome work. In the same way they have started a factory where they make sanitary pads and they have only and only sex workers as employees. This was also an amazing work.

The final product

The final product

They were very well organized. Durbar had hired an MBA professional to help them launch their product in the market. I went there with Seranna andthe camera crew and did some shooting also. This factory was just at the entrance of Sonagachi, the red light area. There were about ten women working there. They said that after a certain age they can’t make much money so they definitely needed a stable source of income and getting a job like this will help them a lot. Most of the workers there, maybe all of them, seemed like over 55 in age and I am sure they these aged people have hard time getting work in the sex industry. I really liked this project a lot.