It is around 4.30 p.m. and Jose’s work is done for the day. Just then somebody walks up to him for help. “My daughter’s date of birth is different in her birth certificate and school certificate. What should I do?” Pat comes Jose’s reply: “You’ve got to go to the Pareeksha Bhavan at Poojappura. They’ve a help desk for the same…”
You might have come across Jose if you’ve had some official dealings at the Corporation office. He is one among many who sit outside the office and help people with fill up documents/certificates.
People usually ask him to help them fill necessary documents such as birth/death certificates, property tax, marriage registration and the like. He doesn’t sound too happy though, talking about his job which he has been doing for the last three decades or so. “When I started this work, there were only four others. Now around 25 people, most of them women, sit here to help people. Also, inside the Corporation office there are Kudumbashree workers who provide various application forms and help people. Naturally, there is a significant dip in the quantity of work we do,” he says.
But times have changed and procedures don’t get as delayed as they used to be. “You get birth/death certificates in a week or so. Computerisation has changed the whole scenario. Above all, people have enough knowledge about the procedures. Nobody can fool them. Also, now that you get birth certificates from the respective hospitals, the number of people who turn up for the same have come down. There used to be rush during the months of March-April for birth certificates,” he says.
Jose works from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and charges Rs. 10 per application form. “It is not easy to work, sitting on the railing. But then this is how I’ve been working all these years. Now that there are too many people here, there is actually a lack of space,” he says.
In fact, some of the women sit on stacks of bricks on the footpath to do their work. “Five years ago there were not many women doing this work,” he says.
Jose, a graduate, lives with wife, Leelamma, and two daughters at Palayam. “I tried my hand at several jobs. In fact, I’ve even been a journalist and used to do contract work also. But I was destined to do this job,” he says. So, is he happy? “I am 60 now and what is the point in being happy or unhappy at this age? Had there been a better option, I wouldn’t be sitting on the footpath doing this job!,” he says.
(A weekly column on men and women who make Thiruvananthapuram what it is)