Jul 19, 2012

An obsession with forms in triplicate, endorsed by 'gazetted officers'

Even as others move on to the 20th, and 21st centuries, Indian bureaucracy (aka 'babudom' in Indian English) remains obsessed with paper forms, filled out in triplicate or quadruplicate if not quntuplicate, endorsed by 'gazetted officers' which also includes managers working for 'Public sector' banks.

Recently I had to get my 'digital signature' renewed - and my identify 'proof' which is my driving license, has to be photocopied and the copy endorsed by a gazetted officer or bank manager. Needless to say, I had to spend some time finding one. Living in a city it is easier, that too if you are privileged to walk into any bank and ask for one because you are a customer of standing or a potential one. If you are not, and you are one of the proverbial 'unwashed Indian mass' then good luck!

By the way, I went to a 'Public sector' bank to find a manager, because by the standards of government sloth, it is easier to find and beg a bank manager for signature than find a true blue 'babu' in a government office - that will be a half day project, even in the city, unless you happen to be son or nephew of one. Or have servants and minions to despatch on such important matters. Thankfully the manager was a nice man. Perhaps he has been chastened by recent influx of private and foreign banks that has turned unnecessary waste of time tasks such as smiling, serving customer and entertaining visitors a necessary evil.

Incidentally such endorsements and signatures are required for lots and lots of things, not just digital certificates.

Talking of digital signatures, for the recent renewal of signature, I changed vendors because the earlier one, Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, (An institution that will probably defend babus and babudom to death because they create enormous revenues through such signatures, endorsements and paperwork requirements) is yet to discover that credit card, net banking and other forms of electronic payments exist. To them it is 'demand draft drawn on a nationalised bank, payable at Delhi'. Yet another uniquely Indian bureaucratic document that requires you to waste half a day queueing up for and getting one, guess where, at a 'Public sector' bank!!

Indians must be one of the very few unfortunate citizens that have to fill out a long form with all the details that are already available in the passport, such as date of birth, address, passport number etc. both while exiting and re-entering India. There is yet another form within a form, that has exact same info, to be handed out to yet another branch of babudom standing guard at our airports - the Customs. Whether or not you have anything to declare other than your tiredness and irritation after a long flight.

Many countries are doing away with such nonsensical forms even for aliens, let alone citizens.

Recently I went to Malaysia and was pleasantly surprised when the Immigration officer said I don't have to fill out any form! Both at entry and at exit, even though I carry an Indian passport.

After all, a swipe of the passport at the machine reader will let the officer see and store everything anyway, without even the form, but then lots of useless public sector or government jobs get created and sustained, keeping lots of parasites busy if forms have to be read, checked, handled, counted, transported, audited, filed away and so on...

And if they are in triplicate, then three times as many are kept busy!! Even better!!!!

It also allows our 'babus' to harass anyone that filled out one field wrong and harangue him. If you are a poor farmer or a labourer, you have even 'better' chances of getting the rough end of the stick. Our babus get pervert and sadistic pleasure out of seeing the discomfort and inconvenience of those they are supposed to serve.

If you ask any question, you will get the omnibus excuse of  'security'. And you are supposed to shut up and not ask how filling out forms can stop terrorist attacks or improve security.

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