As per official records, the special branch (Hyderabad) alone receives about 500 passport files everyday. For the 1.5 lakh residents of Hyderabad who apply for a passport annually, tackling babus and agents at the Regional Passport Office (RPO), is only half the battle. The other half unfolds at a local police station where an applicant’s documents land for the final verdict — the police verification.
The special branch (Hyderabad) alone receives about 500 passport files everyday. Another 150 odd is added by the Cyberabad police limit. Applications collected at these two special branches is then disbursed to the concerned police ‘zones’.
As per the passport rule book, it should be cleared in not more than 21 days. As an incentive, the RPO even dishes out a cash ‘prize’ of Rs 200 on every police verification that is completed within the given timeframe.
Police authorities, however, claim that they do not get a single slice of the pie and that the entire money flows into the state coffers. Passing the buck for the delay in verification on to the passport office, the men in uniform even say that it is the obsolete software of the RPO that is responsible for this tainted reputation of the department.
“Within hours after an applicant submits his documents at the RPO, the status of his file changes to ‘police verification awaited’ on the official website. In reality, however, we never receive a file before a minimum of 15 days,” said an inspector at the police verification cell (Hyderabad), adding how this time period stretches up to one-two months in many cases. “Even after we send the cleared applications to the RPO, the status does not change unless the file is finally processed there and the passport is ready to be delivered,” the inspector added.
R S Praveen Kumar, joint commissioner of police (special branch) says that department is striving towards rectifying this gap in information and has even started a status update system on the Hyderabad police website.
“If an applicant logs on to this site, he will get an accurate picture. The applicant will correctly know if his file has reached the police department or not in the first place. There is also an SMS service that we are promoting for the same,” he said. But the efforts of the police department seem to have done little to change public opinion so far.
“I am yet to come across a person who managed to get his passport (either through Tatkal or the regular route) without paying a bribe to the local policeman,” said Rajesh Dubey a resident of Gachibowli who himself had to shell out Rs 500 to speed up the police verification process for his passport last year.