We expect government officials to be honest and duty bound always. But do they have access to basic amenities to execute their duties?
Less than three weeks ago, my friend received a phone call from the constable at Hulimavu Police Station (off Bannerghatta Road), informing her that her police verification form for issue of her passport had reached the police station. She needed to go in person with photos and id-address proof. All of us have heard of tales of requests for "coffee money" (amounting to a few hundred rupees) at the time of police verification. A bit anxious and unsure of how to tackle the situation if it arose, she requested that I go along with her.
The police station is located right on top of a very wide road (by 'on', I mean on the road and not beside it!). We later realised that the road, with the exception of the place where the police station stood, had recently been widened. From the outside, the police station looks decent - like a typical government building but still yearning for some attention. Entering the side block meant for passport police verification and one may think that one has been transported to an abandoned office from the 19th century. Asbestos roofing lined with cobwebs, heavily seeped walls coated with black fungus, entangled electrical wires hanging dangerously all over, heaped files and records in musty piles.... Is this a place where people actually work?
Babu, the constable in-charge of passport police verification was in the room waiting for those he had called up earlier in the day. We did not have to wait. Seemingly oblivious of the inhumanly messy surroundings in which he was seated, he went about the process of "verification" in a quietly efficient way, asking a few questions to ensure the genuineness of the candidate. "We can easily come to know if people are lying or producing false documents", he said.
Even small rains flood the office. Pic: Arathi Manay Yajaman.
As my friend was getting her documentation done, I took in the room in a little more detail. It suddenly dawned on me that what I thought was a stripy design on the wall was actually mud-stains caused by rain water tricking from the roof, down along the walls, right to the floor. "Does it leak in here?", I asked. We found out that even mild showers cause flooding in the room. Babu said that the police station property is privately owned and they pay a rent of Rs 10,000 per month. No repairs have been done as the property is to be partly demolished to make way for the road. "The only reason the road has not been widened here is because we need to find a new place for the police station.", said Babu. Till such time, the station will continue to operate from this run-down building.
Whatever the reasons, it is not fair to expect anyone to work in the prevailing conditions. How can we expect our government workers to give anything close to their best if this is the "office" we make them sit it? Sympathetically, I told Babu that I would bring this to the notice of relevant people who may help. He allowed me to take pictures. We left with the assurance that the report would be sent to the passport office in the next couple of days. For those anxious about passport issuance, the information I have from my friend is that she has already received her passport... in less than three weeks from application submission! As for "coffee money", none was asked for nor offered. ⊕