Indian Decade

Time for Jugaad?

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Indian Decade

Time for Jugaad?

Getting a new passport in India can be a nightmare. Sometimes the jugaad way is better than the ‘right’ way.

A friend of mine recently moved back from the United States after having lived there for nine years. He had moved over there in 2001 after enrolling on a master’s degree course in architecture at the prestigious University of Pennsylvania. While in the US, he worked with leading design firms in New York and Philadelphia. 

He eventually returned home to India to take advantage of the booming Indian economy by setting up an architecture firm of his own with two friends. His gut instinct about coming back to India seems to have been vindicated. Within six months of launching, the firm already has half a dozen clients—for residential projects and corporate interiors—and they’ve already recruited three ‘cub’ architects. There are also some robust projects in the pipeline.

I’m not trying to plug his firm by giving all this background—I just wanted readers to better understand why his current situation is so unfortunate and so unnecessary.

For the past three months, he has been trying in vain to get an Indian passport. His earlier one expired just after he moved back from the United States. To get a new passport, he needs to submit at least three ‘proof of residence’ documents as well as documents showing he is an Indian citizen.

But this isn't as easy as it sounds.

There are only a few select documents—an electoral voters’ card, monthly phone bills from a state-owned telephone company or something confirming an account at a national bank—that make the cut. It sounds simple enough. But anyone who has chased paperwork in India will be able to empathise with how onerous my friend's task is.

In addition, all of the documents he needs for the passport require him in turn require him to provide ‘proof’ of residence. Despite the fact that he lives in a handsome bungalow in an upmarket South Delhi neighbourhood with his parents, he hasn’t been able to secure these documents. So far, he says he has tried to do things the ‘right’ way. But just before I began writing this, he said he’s now being forced to consider ‘jugaad’ (uniquely Indian quick-fix measures) to get this sorted out or he doesn’t think he’ll ever be able to leave this country again!

That a gifted young architect with impressive credentials and a long, globetrotting history should find it so difficult to get a new Indian passport is something our creaking administration should be ashamed of. Clearly, proving you are Indian is no mean task.