Thursday, September 29, 2011

Administrative efficiency

I belong to a generation of drivers in India when the driving licenses were written by hand and looked like a small book. After 12 years of driving around while carrying it in my pocket and through sweat, rain, mud and other elements of nature, it was tattered beyond recognition. So I decided to upgrade myself to the latest state-of-the-art Smart-card based driving license that the state government introduced a few years ago.

The Shiny New Driving License

Like I have already mentioned before, going to government offices in India is generally considered a nightmare. So we got agents everywhere (even outside the offices itself!) that promise to make your life easy. Most of them reign on FUD and tell you that its almost impossible to do any activity in a Government office without paying a bribe or spending insane amounts of time and several visits. So the naturally gullible citizen decides to pay the agent upfront to get her work done.

Now the brave soul I am, I have been experiencing India (Mumbai) in its element for a while now. So I decided, I take time off my priceless routine and actually experience how bad this license change procedure actually is.

The RTO in Vashi is situated inside the APMC (Sec-19) (not welcoming to begin with). I chose Tuesday morning as a strategic time to visit. Saturdays are nightmare to go to Government offices. There is a spill over crowd from the weekend that keeps Mondays busy. So generally Tuesday and Wednesday mornings are the best times to go.

When I reached the office, I was pleasantly surprised to see hardly any crowd. I approached an officer who helpfully guided me through the procedure. This is very unlike public perception that Government officials are rude. Well, to be fair, he was not all smiling and happy – but then I am not expecting that level of pretentious service from them. He even went through the pains of fixing my form for me (wherever I had left the simple form empty!).

He asked me to then go to the payment counter. I was assuming, I would be asked to pay more than the receipt (corruption for morons). But they charged me 250 rupees and provided me with a receipt for the same! That too with no complaints for not providing exact change (its a sin to carry higher value notes).

The receipt

Then, I was redirected to a room where my photo, thumb print and signature were taken. There too the lady official was sweet enough to warn me in advance “Sir, your photo will be taken now”. Most places where my ID photos are taken, I am caught unawares so my photo makes me look like a convict. Here, I could smile like an ape with a banana in his hand (well that part is my fault not theirs). She also asked me to verify that my signature made sense (cause you have to write on a touch-sensitive electronic pad!). Then she told me that the driving license would be delivered to my home address and I could go home now!

Total time in RTO office = 20 minutes. Total time spent by me in filling the form = half of it. I am mighty impressed by the way our RTO works. I am sad to see an article in DNA India that they did not have a similar experience in Andheri RTO.

Exactly 3 days later, I got my shiny new license in my mail delivered to my doorstep. Just for kicks, I asked a local agent how much would he charge me to get my license renewed. He said 1000 rupees. That's 4 times the amount that the RTO actually charges, and that too for doing nothing special!

The Envelope

Welcome to the new India. Like I said before, India at grassroots is not as corrupt as it is at the higher levels in the administration.


  1. Ditto for me! i have always got a similar experience in RTO offices and even Passport offices! Things are really not as bad as they are projected to be!