Today I went to get my mother’s passport renewed, the experience was overwhelmingly positive. My son Anand filled the on-line application form on Sunday 8/19/2012 and we were done in about 30 minutes. We learned for senior citizen, there is no need for appointment and from the website figured-out working hours was 9:30-4:30pm. So planned to arrive around 9am and as we neared the Saligramam PSV centre, it was a pleasant surprise to see a private car park next to Centre. As I was parking I noticed they had opened the centre around 9am and early birds were streaming inside.
As we entered and showed the the online application form, they allowed us to enter the hall and wait in queue. There is an initial document check and they issue token, I had not photocopied second page of Passport, so I came out and in the reception area they have a Photo-copier vendor handily situated. Then we were issued Token and a file with necesary docuements and asked to go to first floor. As we exited the elevator there was an attendant and he directed us to open counter – A7!
The counters have two chairs and dual monitors (one facing the applicant), the young lady manning the counter instructed my mother to sit without disturbing the chair (a digital camera was strategically placed). She quickly got the originals, and walked us the thru the passport application making sure the entries had correct spelling etc. There was some confusion in my mothers address proof, voter Id did not have street address, ration card had wrong nagar listed, so after some discussion the young lady said she cannot accept street name and removed it from the Address. They took picture and figure print scan digitally, in parallel the young lady was scanning the documents and attaching them efficiently. She collected Rs 1000 cash, made a reciept and asked us to wait before counter B. Within 10 minutes we went to counter B7 (there are screens indicating which token is next-up and assistants guiding applicants quickly) and our first encounter with Govt Servant, he correctly pointed out the address in Ration card was not clear and we shot ourselves in the foot and now we need to get a police clearance. I said ok (I was tempted to make a smart-ass comment “this is freaking Id issued by Govt and they not have a standardized way of entering address” but kept my mouth shut). This person also cancelled the old passport
Next we were directed to wait in front of counter C, after another 5-10 minute wait we went to Counter C5 and the Lady official was polite and explained that the passport will arrive first and then followed by police verification. Then we were directed to final counter where they collected the Token slip and got the fee reciept, scanned it and quickly printed an acknowledgement slip and stapled it together and were told we had completed the process. They had feedback slip, I dutifully filled it and gave we good feedback. When we exited the building the time was 10am.
After all the delay, I think TCS has got all parts of Passport Seva Kendra right and I could not think of any improvement to the process they have implemented!! Clean office space with fully air conditioned, necessary chair. No shouting, no jumping the queue. Trained security and attendants. As I exited they even had a waiting area for those who showed-up at the Centre before their appointment (something for American consulate and German Consulate in Chennai to think about).
I understand there are still issues with getting appointment slot for general folks but this whole step-up is easily scalable and as they open more Passport Seva Kendra things will easy-out. I am super optimistic this is the way forward and most of our other goverment related services will get there in next 4-5 years.
As a bonus, I went from Velachery to Saligraman in 25 minutes and on the way back in 45 minutes( there was nasty traffic because of truck break-down near Chennai trade center, otherwise might have made it back in 30 minutes).