A process that should have taken about 15 minutes, takes the author four hours, in India’s information technology capital

It was the D-month for my driving licence renewal. I had heard rumours that this was a breeze of a process, with an online portal and new technology in place. Promptly, I went to the website of the Karnataka Regional Transport Authority in search of that elusive online driving licence renewal option. Alas, there was none. I could only download the form. Something was better than nothing. At least, I did not have to go to the Regional Transport Office to get it.

I filled up the particulars, got the required medical certificate from my doctor and put everything in a folder, ready to go through the breeze of the renewal process.

The RTO opens at 10 a.m. Giving the “officials” some time to come in and settle down, I went there at 10.15 a.m. A huge office, with counters clearly marked, and a board that sternly said “no touts”, welcomed me. It took me some time to find the driving licence section, since it was towards the far end.

The section was swarming with personnel from various driving schools. I promptly went to the counter marked “Inward” and handed in the forms. One look and the person at the counter asked me to go to the counter marked “Superintendent”. The super looked at the form, and his intent was clear. The medical certificate had to be signed by a “sarkari doctor”. He was kind enough to suggest a hospital nearby, and also that I should also get an envelope. He also asked me to pay the fees — Rs. 201.

My next visit was to the government hospital. After going in and out of a few rooms, I was finally directed to the OPD room. A bunch of doctors were sitting there. One of them took my form, put the seal and signature, and asked me for Rs. 50, which he promptly put into his hundi.

I now headed back to the RTO and handed over the form to the superintendent. He did not like the envelope I had brought. Apparently, there was this special odd-sized envelope sold for Rs. 30 by a lady who sat on the steps outside. I had no choice but to get it.

The “super” signed my form and sent me to the “Inward” babu. He wanted my photograph to be taken. I went to the photography section. Without even looking at me or the form, he asked me to get it signed by the ARTO. I went to the ARTO’s door. There was a long queue there of learner’s licence aspirants. I thought I did not belong to this genre. But the person at the door insisted that I join the queue, which was about half a kilometre long. After one and a half hours in the queue, I reached the ARTO’s office. Without batting an eyelid, he put his autograph on the form. I have no clue as to why he had to sign this blessed form.

I went back to the photographer and caught myself in the camera. He took Rs. 50 and there was no receipt. I took the form to “inward”, assuming all was done. He took all the forms, wrote my name in a register, and asked me to give it to the person sitting at the next desk. The person at the next desk wrote my name in another register and filled up a receipt-like piece of paper. He gave me the form and the receipt and asked me to go back to the “inward”. “Inward” took the form, signed the receipt and returned it.

A process that should have taken about 15 minutes, took me four hours, in Bangalore, the information technology capital of India. Could all of this not have been done in the background? If for global investors there can be one-window clearance, can ordinary citizens not have a single counter to get their government-related work done?

Well, this was my punishment for not having gone through a middle man or driving school, who apparently have a “different process”.

Then, I hoped against hope that I would get my licence by post in the next few weeks.

gpadmana@yahoo.com

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