Monday, July 11, 2016

India Passport Queries

I write this blog post with a purpose. To give it some kind of context, let me give you a little bit of a back story.

I have had a variety of experiences with the PSK, and passport offices in general.

I felt that the experiences I have had, can help those in distress regarding things related to their India passports.

I started responding to questions on Quora, and lo-and-behold, I started getting queries on weird channels such as: Facebook, Twitter, Google+. So I decided, well, let me just put everything on a blog, and let people find it.

So here goes.

The Ministry of External affairs issues passports to India citizens on behalf of the Government of India. The passports are proof of your residence in the country, and prove that you are indeed, a citizen of the country.

Before giving you the passport, the Government likes to run certain checks about your identity. Now these checks are perfectly valid and well within the realms of reason. As having a passport guarantees you protection from the government when on foreign soil etc. etc. etc.

These checks are:
1. You are indeed a citizen of the country. (Proof of identity)
2. You stay in the place where you say you stay. (Proof of address)
3. You have studied (if at all) (ECR Check)
4. You are of a certain age (Proof of age)

Now after years of tedious queues at the Passport offices, the RPO finally outsourced its processing of applications to Tata Consulting Services, the IT Services arm of the Tata group. They have done quite well in mapping out detailed processes for applications for passports, and PCCs. There are of course a number of places where they can do better, but since it is a process that requires scale, and support from all stakeholders (read the general junta), it will take time. But I am optimistic.

Some of the common queries I get about the Indian passport are as follows:
1. How long after verification will I get my passport?
2. Can a family member be a reference in the passport application?
3. I recently moved into a new place, will verification happen at all places I have stayed at?
4. Application is under review after police verification what does it mean?
5. SCN issued after verification, what should I do?

I'll try to answer all the above mentioned questions. If you need answers to more specific questions, please comment below, and I will try my best to answer them.

1. How long after verification will I get my passport?

Ans: There is no fixed timeline to you getting your passport. Passport offices do not have a service level agreement to dispatch your passport for printing. This is how it works.

Once your police verification is complete, the police sends a detailed report to the RPO. If the report is clear, your application is sent for printing, and then once printed, it is dispatched via speedpost.

Post printing, you will usually get your passport within 10-15 working days, depending on where you stay.

Some police stations are connected via the internet, centrally. The application after processing at the PSK goes to the police thana. If the thana is not connected via the internet, it goes to the regional office as a file. This file has your application copy. This includes, your present address, your date of birth and other details.

The police thana gets the file from the regional office and the inspector gives you a call/ visits your house personally.

When you meet the inspector, he/she verifies your address, and your place of birth (if it is the same place), if not, there is another verification that happens at your place of birth.

Once the report is clear, it goes back to the regional police office, and from there back to the RPO.

If the police stations are connected online, all transactions happen online. Else, a hard copy is circulated, and the RPO updates your application status based on the police report.

Does the activity involve giving/ taking bribes? Absolutely not. If a cop is asking you for bribes, then you need to ask for what purpose the bribe is being asked for. Typically the RPO allocates a portion of the passport fee for precisely this purpose.

The entire process takes time that varies between 1 day to over 90 days in some cases.

Let me give you an example:

A was born in Hooghly, West Bengal, and is now living in Mysore, Karnataka for the past 2 months. Before Mysore, A was living in Hyderabad for 3 months, and before that in New Delhi for 12 months.

He has filed his passport application in Bengaluru. The Bangalore PSK will trigger a verification request for place of residence at Mysore, Hyderabad, and in New Delhi. The police stations at these places is connected via internet, so the police should not take more than 7 days to check their data bases for criminal records against A, check if A has resided in the addresses mentioned and update the status.

A proof of Birth verification request goes to the Hooghly police station. This station is not connected via internet, so a hard copy is dispatched from Bengaluru, to the regional center. This regional center passes it on the local thana that checks with the mentioned municipality/ hospital verifying if A was actually born there.

Once the verification is complete, the thana sends the report to the regional office, who then sends a hard copy back to Bengaluru RPO, who updates the status manually.

This process might take anything between 7 days to 90 days to complete.

If all reports check out, then the passport is sent for printing.

Once printed the passport is dispatched to A in Mysore from the Bengaluru RPO via speed post, and A gets it in 5 working days.

2. Can a family member be a reference in the passport application?
NO. An immediate family member cannot be reference. It has to be someone else who knows you in some capacity and can verify that you stay at the given location. This is done as an additional check just to verify if the address and the duration of stay is legitimate, and if the person is real.

3. Recently moved to a new place, will verification happen at previous address?

YES. If you have moved to a new place, and have not stayed there for more than 6 months, the verification process will happen at the previous address as well. You need not be present there, the police will check their data base for criminal records.

What if you are staying at a hostel, and have given permanent address at your home? Well, then verification will happen at both places.

4. Application under review, what should I do?

This typically means, that the reports are in, and the RPO is checking the reports submitted post verification. If all is well, your passport will be sent for printing, else, you shall get a Police Verification not Clear message.

In such a case, when the not-clear report is submitted, you will have to visit the RPO between 10AM and 1PM in person with all your documents submitted. The APO/ RPO will meet you in person and decide what to do with your case. Typically this gets sent for a re-verification at the place where the report is not clear, with the fresh set of documents.

The cycle of verification begins again, but only in the place where the report is not clear.

5. SCN issued, what should I do?

If you get a show-cause notice from the RPO around your passport application, do not panic. Check what the document is saying. If it says that your residence address was not right, it could be possible that you were not present when verification happened, or a bunch of other reasons.

Visit the RPO, where you will be made to write an application in response to the SCN, and re-submit the documents. The APO/ RPO will take a call on whether re-verification will be required or not.

This is a standard process, and there is no need to worry about this.

Generally, the RPO office is a friendly place, but you need to be armed with the correct information, and supporting documents. Make sure the application you write is scanned at the RPO, and after getting an acknowledgement from the APO/ RPO, it gets scanned again in the system.

This way they have a record that you have visited the RPO with clarifications on the SCN.

All the best! Hope this helps. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

NBA Playoffs 2016 Predictions

I am a passionate fan of the NBA, and simply love anything basketball. Why NBA? Well, because I grew up on a staple of Michael Jordan and the Bulls, followed by Kobe-Shaq and the Lakers, then TimmyD-Robinson's Spurs, Shaq-Wade Heat, and now the Splash's Warriors. I am a Lakers fan, and have been for as long as I can remember. I write this blog specifically talking about my views on the Playoff seasons as they stand now, and who I think might go on to win this. I have seen 2 games being played by each side in the playoffs thus far. Before I start talking, let me list the match ups in both the conferences as of R1 in the playoffs. 


GSW vs the Houston Rockets
SA Spurs vs the Memphis Grizzlies
OKC vs the Dallas Mavericks
LAC vs The Portland Trailblazers 

Cleveland Cavaliers vs Detroit Pistons
Toronto Raptors vs the Indiana Pacers
Miami Heat vs Charlotte Hornets
Atlanta Hawks vs the Boston Celtics

Steph Curry is uncertain for the rest of the series following his mysterious “foot” injury, and that raises a lot of questions on how the playoffs will unravel itself. There are many interesting opportunities this raises on what the NBA will look like post-playoffs.

Western Conference
Had Curry been playing, there would have been no doubt in my mind that the GSW would win over the Rockets 4 – 0 but now, I am going to watch closely. Yes, they might sweep the series at Houston, but hey, you never say never. Yes, I know what you’ll probably comment after seeing the first Curry-less game at Oakland, that the GSW has a firm handle on things. What worries me is the fact that GSW takes terrible shots when playing against a physical team. Beverly, Ariza can do that to you. In my opinion, all the Rockets have to do is, put a body on Klay Thompson, and Draymond. The rest of the team will make sucky passes, and turn the ball over. But on the offensive end, the team has to create empty spaces, and get more points in the paint. Which is, as of now, GSW’s Achilles heel. Yes, they are excellent at defense, but a couple of good hard screens, and tall players distributing the ball can create a whole lot of trouble for the Warriors.
The Spurs Grizzlies match-up is a foregone conclusion. My heart goes out to the Grizzlies because they lost two of their stalwarts Gasol and Conely to injury mid-season. Poor Randolph can only do so much, and the way the Spurs are guarding him, it seems like a tough ask of them to put anything resembling a fight. Spurs are the underdogs this season, mark my words, and are the only team that can stop a healthy Warriors.
The Thunders are the Arsenals of the NBA. They have the fire power, they have the potential, but somehow, they lose matches. Just plain bad luck. I can only imagine how Arsene Wenger and all Arsenal fans around the world feel about their team. I can only imagine how OKC fans feel. Not the ones in Seattle of course. I am sure there were some Supersonics fans cheering their loss to the Mavs by a point in Game 2. However, I do not see this series going anywhere else but the OKCs way, unless, they pull an Arsenal in the next game, and lose to Mavs at Dallas.
The Clippers series is set. I mean, I have never seen a poorer display by Lillard and McCollum. Ridiculous shooting numbers, forced shots, turn overs, missed threes, the back court seems like one of the most over rated ones in the NBA. Only when you see Lillard missing open looks, and playing like a clueless fellow do you accept, yes, the fellow perhaps isn’t all-star material this season. Maybe the loss of LA to the Spurs hit him the hardest. Plumlee is disappointing as their big man. I was expecting some stellar shooting from Crabbe, but unfortunately, he’s just as average as any average player in the NBA who fades into oblivion. I see the Clippers sail into the next round comfortably, perhaps even by playing their second unit, with Griffin getting some more match practice. I like the way Austin Rivers and Crawford are leading the second unit.
 How the West will shape up:
Here are my predictions for the conference semi finals
GSW vs the Clippers
Spurs vs the OKC
GSW vs the Clippers can become a very interesting series, with a healthy Griffin in the fray. I see Draymond guarding Griffin, Klay take on Reddick, Curry on Paul, Bogut on Jordan, and Barnes take on a probable Pierce. If Curry is not in the mix, I see Kerr starting Admiral Andre instead of Livingston because this gives Kerr a switch on Reddick.
This can become an interesting series if Curry is not playing because the second unit of the GSW then gets put under pressure. The second unit of the Clippers love the fast game. They like shooting from beyond the arc, and can fire pull up jumpers from within the paint. The GSW gets stymied with a fast second unit. Their second unit won’t have Admiral Andre if he’s starting. Barbosa, Festus, Clark, Livingston and Green might have a bit of a stretch on their hands. Like I said can be interesting for a bunch of reasons.
However, I do not see them stopping the Warriors because they are a tremendous offensive juggernaut.
The Spurs will walk all over the OKC in the semis. Why? Well, lets look at the match ups. Ibaka will have LA or TimmyD walking over him all game. KD will have the Kawaaai-the-Claw guarding him. Adams will have LA or TimmyD on him. Westbrook will have Parker, or Patty Mills guarding him. This leaves Danny Green or David West guarding the fifth OKC player. Honestly, I do not know who Billy Donovan will start against the Spurs. The brilliant thing about the Spurs unit is the second unit is as good as the first. The OKC has a really awful second unit. And that is where they’ll lose to the Spurs.
My prediction for the western conference finals: GSW vs the SA Spurs. And honestly, this will be a better match up than the one for the Championship, irrespective of the team that will be coming in from the East (which will be the Cavs if they stay healthy). I think here the SA Spurs might push this to a 6 game series, with the Spurs pulling two games away from the Dubs at home, but I think the Dubs might just win this one, UNLESS Curry is injured.

Eastern Conference
The Cavs will have absolutely no issues walking over the Pistons. The Pistons are a young side, and are up against a fit Cavs unit. The Cavs are a deadly side when James, Uncle Drew, Love, JR are firing on all cylinders. I have nothing more to add. I think Van Gundy should look at this series to give the young team a taste of what it takes to succeed. I just hope Drummond, who I have a lot of hope on, can learn and come back as a dominating big guy next season, and we might see the return of the “Big Center” again.
The Raptors will pull through against the Pacers. This is what I hope for. I love the way Paul George, Monta Ellis are rallying to put the series past the Raptors, but to be brutally honest, they will probably not stand a chance, and the series will come to an end in 6 games is what I envision. Better luck next time PG. I am expecting the Raptors backcourt to pick things up from Game 4 and come back to dominate the Pacers. DeRozan and Lowry have worked really hard for the Raptors to get here, and there is no way they are throwing this away. Or so I hope.
The Heat is my favorite story this season. I always liked Deng, and the way he’s become the new swingman for the Heat. The good news for the Heat is, the team has been here before. Wade has won championships with Spoelstra. True a Bosh would have been good, but Whiteside has taken things into his own hands quite admirably. The Heat are looking pretty solid in this series against Charlotte. Unfortunately, Lin, Batum, Walker, and Jefferson have a lot to learn. Yes, they are brilliant in patches, but it is not going to win them the championship. The eternal rant I have against the greats of successful basketball franchise is that they cannot create the next set of greats, except for Hakeem “The Dream”. None of the other players, I think, have been successful at creating awesome ball players. In a nutshell, I see the Heat cruising through to the next round.

The Hawks Celtics season isn’t turning out to be the match up I had expected. I was impressed with the grit the Celtics showed in the season, but unfortunately, they have been playing bad ball. A little defense focused team has totally messed up their offense. I am hoping that the Celtics will perform a little better in their home stretch, because I really like the way the Boston team is coming up. Now saying this is tough for me because I am a Lakers fan, through and through. The Hawks have surprised me with their play. I think if they continue to play the way they are playing, they might create a little bit of trouble for the Cavs. But just a little bit. I see the Hawks winning this in 5 games at the most. Maybe they’ll drop one in Boston, but that is about it.

My predictions for the eastern conference semi-finals are:
The Cavs vs. The Hawks
Raptors vs. The Heat
Now I am certain the Cavs will win the match up in straight matches, there is no doubt about that, I just hope no one gets hurt in the series, as the Hawks are a physical team.
The Raptors will fall to the Heat, is what I think. The Heat are an experienced side, and I think we haven’t seen the Best of Wade this season yet. Yes, he’s turned back father time a few times, but I think the best is yet to come.
In the Finals, I see Heat playing against the Cavs, and I think this is going to be a tough match up. The Heat have caused a lot of problems for the Cavs in the regular season, and I see this match up not going any other way. Yes, the Cavs might win, but it’ll be another 6 or 7 game series with its own set of ups and downs.

The Finals:I think GSW might take this all the way if they have a fit Curry. I see them winning in straight matches against the Cavs. Maybe, they’ll drop a game at Cleveland, but I doubt it.
The same goes for the Spurs, they’ll win straight against the Cavs.
 So the title would ultimately belong to the GSW. That is what I predict. If, and only if, Curry is at a 100%.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Detective Byomkesh Bakshy

For the first time in many years, I felt like going to a theater and watching a Hindi movie. I must admit, I was a little nervous about the decision.

Detective Byomkesh Bakshi (or Bakshy as YRF like to call him), the classic bengali cult figure, portrayed and immortalized by Uttam Kumar (wiki link) , then by Rajat Kapur (wiki link) written by Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay (wiki), is revered by many around the world.

When I found out that Dibakar Bannerjee was about to direct the film, I was thrilled, for this is the guy who had delivered some of my favorite Indian movies namely: Khosla ka Ghosla, and Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!

Expectations were naturally, quite high, but in the end, I was disappointed.

But before I get into what was terrible in the movie, let me talk about the good parts.

I really liked the fact that there was an effort to bring classic detectives back in to mainstream cinema, and YRF was quite shrewd with their choice, as Byomkesh was liked by the Indian audiences of the past (Rajat Kapur, dir: Basu Chatterjee).

YRF meant that the film had a huge budget, so parts of old Calcutta can be rebuilt as a set, so that shone through in the movie.

There was no complaints about sound design and production design, for an Indian movie that is, both were quite good.

The story was good, not great, not average, but good. I was happy about that.

This is where the good parts end, now let me talk about the things that were downright sad.

The Acting: Nothing against the individuals, Sushant Singh and Swastika Mukherjee, but the only guy who gets acting credits for this film is Anand Tiwari as Ajit, Byomkesh's faithful chronicler and partner in "searching for the truth" or Satyanweshi (seeker of truth). 

The uni-brow Byomkesh just does not cut it. The acting leaves a lot to be desired, and I left the theater feeling that there was so much more he could have done with the role.

Swastika Mukherjee was absolutely horrible with her role, and was a major disappointment.

The last gripe that I have for the film was its editing. The length could have been way shorter, and I felt that it was unnecessarily lengthy in some places, and could have been more fast paced. But that is just me speaking. In general Bollywood movies tend to be a little bit longer than they should be.

The movie ends at a very interesting juncture, and there might be a possibility of a sequel, but seeing that the movie hasn't made money, I doubt if YRF will bet their money on a part 2.