Thursday, November 11, 2010

Indian Bureaucracy - Part 3

As you must have guessed from my yesterday's post, our visit to the Indian Consulate was not successful. This is what happened:

Upon arriving at the consulate, we learned that they do not allowed any bags inside, so only one of us could get in, whereas the other one had to stay outside and keep an eye on our backpacks.

Since I was the primary petitioner, I was the one that went inside first. Initially, things were going smoothly and the lady that was processing my case seemed to be doing a good job. That is until she asked me when I got married. When she found out that we had been married for less than a year, she tried to send me away. First, I tried to be nice and charming and play the personal card of needing to visit the in-laws soon, but she was not buying it. So then I told her that I am not aware of the rule that says that one needs to be married for a year before is allowed to apply for the PIO card, and I asked where that rule can be found.

"It is on our website" - she said.
"It is not" - I answered.
"No, no, it is there" - was her reply.
To that I replied much more decisively : "It is not on your website and I would like to know what is the official basis for this rule."

She consulted three other employees of the consulate, all of which claimed that the "one-year rule" existed, but none of which was able to identify its source (other than the consulate's webpage). Finally, as I kept on maintaining that the rule is not on the webpage and refused to leave until I was given a written statement explaining why I got refused the right to apply for the PIO card, they told me to wait and talk with their supervisor.

At that moment Anil and I switched the places, and he continued fighting with the system. First, he went back to talk with one of the people I talked a moment earlier. The guy again claimed that the one-year rule is on the consulate's webpage.

Luckily, there was a paid computer with an Internet connection in the consulate, so Anil used it to open the consulate's webpage. Then he called the aforementioned consulate's employee to show him where the rule was. Needless to say, the guy did not even bother moving his ass and kept on mumbling that we should simply come back in a few months. To that Anil cleverly replied that how we could be sure that they would not come up with a new rule then? The guy had no good reply to that.

So finally Anil went and talked with the supervisor (one of the consuls, I guess). The consul was very nice and polite, but also incorrect. First, he tried to send us away by claiming that the rule was posted on the consulate's webpage, then that it was on the webpage of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (to both of which we replied that it was not there; we knew it for a fact as we had done our homework thoroughly), and then that it was on the webpage of Bureau of Immigration (again, we knew it was not there). Finally, he surrendered and said that the rule existed, but was not published yet...

Lovely. This way one can claim anything.

If it had happened in India, it would have been clear what we should have done next: pay a bribe. But since we were in the US, I do not suppose this option was there? (We did not try, maybe we should have had.)

It is actually not a big deal that I did not get the PIO card right now. If Indian bureaucracy permits, I should get it in a few months anyway. If we travel to India before then, I will simply apply for a tourist visa.

Still, I do think it is crazy that they (they = bureaucrats) can come up with any rule they want, and one can not do too much about it.

Now the best part: Anil and I actually had fun yesterday. Dealing with Bureaucracy is often frustrating, but dealing with Indian Bureaucracy is on top of that entertaining. Especially when you understand the rules of the game and you know how to play it. E.g. The security guy initially did not want to let Anil inside the consulate. But he immediately changed his mind when Anil told him that he was friends with the Consul General of India to the US :-) Don't tell anybody, but he is not :-)