By Siddharth Srivastava
NEW DELHI: I renewed my driving license (DL) recently without paying a tout, the usual route advised by my gym trainer, ex-colleague and many others. As I found out (first up, I googled: how to get DL in Gurgaon, Haryana), some e-savvy touts advertise online. Gurgaon, as you know, is India’s most happening place.
The promotional literature describes (in very bad English) dealing with a government department as the most horrible experience that no self-respecting individual, human or otherwise should endure.
“We know how to deal with government cancer. Our customers can relax,’’ read one text. I registered with an online tout service. Promptly, a girl executive (one can guess the age from their overexcited tones) sounding smarter than credit card and insurance telemarketers, called for details. I decided not to pursue the matter.
Call it the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) effect on me I decided to brazen it out. BTW, I believe Arvind Kejriwal’s perhaps left-leaning economic policies are anachronistic. I would easily settle for corrupt rich India than corruption free poor India, which is contradiction in itself.
Anyway, back to the DL process. The hall at the mini secretariat in Gurgaon where DL’s are dispensed to regular citizens (the real aam aadmi that cannot afford a tout) is quite large. The queue to procure the DL is much bigger spilling to the corridors outside infused with the sharp smell of urine emanating from very unclean toilets. As a matter of habit, I make it a point to visit the wash room at home or pee outside before visiting any government office.
There are many desks in the DL hall occupied by sundry minor government functionaries, mostly free, busy in gossip, snacks and jokes. The long wait in the DL queue is for an audience with an overworked, overweight, hassled and harried official, addressed jocularly as Hanumanji, handling all paperwork single-handedly. The real Hanumanji would have been much better placed serving Lord Ram and fighting Ravan.
Someone told me government has created post of one Hanumanji authorized to clear DL paper work. Forming another such position that would reduce DL processing time by half is a major administrative exercise that needs to involve higher officials, maybe minister, legislature.
In short, it will never happen in my life time. Inflexibility is a limitation of government that has been debated for long.
If AAP sets this right, it would be a great achievement, though they need to realize they need govern now and stop fighting the system. They are the system. They are no longer activists. At the hall, most other officials while away their time over tea and samosas while citizens endlessly wait for their turn to meet Hanumanji or just give up and hire a tout.
Incidentally, the chap behind me in line happened to be a tout who good-naturedly told me to pay him a couple of thousands. For him, this was just another day in office.
“Why waste your time,’’ he advised me. “Go and do your work and make money. The main aim of the government is to make it very difficult for regular citizens to get a DL the regular way. You pay us, we pay their cut and the job gets done quickly. It is very simple.’’
But, inspired by AAP, I had decided not to bribe and I was not going to let a seedy tout break my resolve though it was tempting as I was already hungry and needed to pee, outside.
After a good three hours of waiting time involving some amount of pushing, shoving, arguing with line breakers, out-of-turn crashers, those with references and contacts, my face time with Hanumanji did finally materialize.
For an instant he scrutinized me eagle eyed. I understood the message very clearly: “Why the f..k are you here a..hole? You could have just paid a tout? I have lost my cut you have wasted your time. You are an idiot.’’
Anyway, I had my paperwork in place, three copies of proof of identity and address that Hanumanji could not reject. He knew I had stood in line for three hours and would fight crazily if he dismissed my papers without reason. He signed and tossed my documents on a pile behind him.
“Your DL will reach you in two weeks,’’ he said in a tone that conveyed my status in the hall was lower than a cockroach.
And my DL has arrived!
It took me three working days to procure one without paying a bribe. One day for the right forms and advise. One day for the driving test which involved dealing with another Hanumanji while other officials lazed around in the winter sun. The pic below is self-descriptive. My advice to those not very Aam Admi seeking a DL: hire a tout.