Abysmal public serviceA people-friendly government agency is something long overdue in Nepal.
Following the lifting of pandemic-induced restrictions and renewed interest in pursuing foreign employment, international education and travel in general, people have been thronging the passport office once again. But the authorities seem to have been caught off guard by the deluge of applications. After the authorities' decision to issue biometric passports last year, snags at various levels of the issuance process had been predicted; but despite these forewarnings, mismanagement seems rife. The long queues at the passport office are just one among countless services under government supervision in the limelight in the recent past for all the wrong reasons.
Whether it is the issuance of a passport or a driver's licence, there has been no respite for people to be guaranteed smooth, hassle-free service. There have been reports of people waiting for days on end to avail themselves of such services, often sleeping rough. For most applicants, it comes at the increased cost of paying for travel and subsistence while waiting for the outcome. While it may be true that the current crisis is due to the unanticipated volume of applications and being at a transitional phase from machine-readable to biometric passports, these instances of rough sleeping and debilitating queues were a recurring phenomenon even during the days of the traditional passport.
One would hope that past lessons would enable the authorities to be more efficient and professional in dealing with such recurrences. Still, every new arrangement only comes with more disappointment. During the pandemic's peak, the general public faced immense hardships in getting vaccinated at designated centres, having to wait for hours on end, often at the risk of contracting the Covid-19 virus. In Nepal, receiving services from the government is often said to be one of the worst experiences people face. And despite this ignominy, the authorities appear to be operating rather obliviously to the occurrences around them.
As it is, government work is generally considered to be engulfed by red-tapism. But does it always have to be this arduous and discouraging? What masochistic delight does the government intend to seek from people roughing it out on the streets and running from pillar to post for days on end, just to be told they have failed to include a full stop after their name or an irrelevant piece of paperwork hasn't been included in the application? If they sense that the volume of applications is the source of their problem, then measures need to be taken to increase their workforce to deal with it. If that seems challenging enough, then maybe a tie-up with private players could help ease the situation.
A people-friendly government agency is something long overdue in Nepal. And an image makeover of this scale is only possible by ensuring that services are accorded in a timely and efficient manner without causing the least hardship to people they seek to serve.