Getting one’s passport issued is much easier these days, but many people may be in dark about new arrangements until they reach the counter of the district administration office or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The introduction of online registration of data has drastically reduced crowds at passport counters, but due to the digital divide, many people are still left with disadvantage. One has to find a place where digital forms are filled with accurate entry of facts and figures such as name spelling, date of birth and addresses. One has to pay from Rs. 150 to Rs. 200 for such services.
These days, many people without computer literacy are visiting district administration offices or the Foreign Ministry and filling a digital form. Even those who have a computer knowledge and even an Internet access may not have a good know-how of the subject. This compels them to seek the service of the private counters offering digital services. A visit to the district administration office Kathmandu a few years ago had given me an impression that the days of middlemen were over. But now they seem to be coming back with the arrival of online registration system.
No middlemen are allowed inside the Kathmandu CDO office which is a very praiseworthy thing, but now some do wait outside the office and try to take advantage of the people with digital ignorance. These people have no connection with the counters that provide online form filling service, but pretend that they have. They ask you to follow them and take to such a station where you could have visited on your own and sought the necessary service. The dalal provides you a postage stamp which is required to be pasted on the application. He prepares a hand-written application and demands a few hundred rupees for this service.
There was a time when you had to visit a studio to take and print photos in appropriate measurement to fit in the machine readable passports. If you are applying for a passport under the express delivery category, by paying special charges of Rs. 15,000, Rs. 12,000 and Rs. 10,000, you need not submit MRP size photos taken outside on your own. Such express services are provided only by the Passport Department of the Foreign Ministry at Lainchaur, and it has its own studio for taking photos. Recommendations, however, have to be provided by concerned district administration offices.
Eye glasses, tika and jewelries are not allowed in the photographs to be pasted in the passports. Before taking a photo for the passport under express service category, the photographer asked my wife to take off her nose top. But despite great efforts, it did not come off. With the jewelry on, the document would be invalid. A woman selling passport cover outside the office said that she would help remove the top on condition that we bought a passport cover from her. She tried, but could not do it. Finally, my wife had to take help of a jewelry maker at Thamel to get the ornament removed. She had to spend more than an hour to get this done.
By Bhimsen Thapaliya