An account of my visit to a government office

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Today I had gone to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MSJE), Shashtri Bhawan to hand over a nomination of a colleague for the National Award. What an experience – it will stay with me for quite a while. It justified yet again my poor opinion of the entire government system.

As I reached there in a car the security guard at the gate asked me to get a pass made from the reception to allow my car in. The driver reversed and we drove around aimlessly trying to find the reception the guard mentioned. It turned out to be some barracks that had been put up next to the entrance. What helped in identifying it was a little common sense and some trial and error. Of course there was no signage to find them.

I sent my carer in to get the pass made because as a wheelchair user it was not accessible to me. It took her twenty minutes to get an entry pass made since by the time she reached it was already 1 pm and like robots that had been functioned in a certain way, everybody seemed to stop working. I wonder the chaos that will happen if the entire country was functioned that way.

Finally she came with the pass and we drove into that important building. I tried entering from the main entrance that lead to the MSJE (no signage was visible). The security guard at the entrance stopped me and directed me to the Facilitation counter instead saying that they would accept the nomination.

So again I got moving trying to locate the facilitation counter for MSJE this time. As before the only way to find it was asking the people around for directions. The facilitation counter was inaccessible too. So I stood outside the office and hailed at the staff to help.

The facilitation staff sent us right back saying that the reception, this time the one located outside the building entrance,  will open at 2 or 215 pm and I should get a pass made and go straight up and submit the form to the Section Officer. It was just 130pm at that time and this mean I needed to wait. The lack of ownership in the way each person performed was irritating me. I asked him sternly whether it was going to be 2pm or 215 pm as for me 15 minutes were important. Unnerved by my sternness ‘2 ‘ he responded.

I pushed my chair right back. As I wheel back Kapil Sibal Hon'ble Minister of Science & Technology and Earth Sciences, got out from his car right in front of me. Seeing this arrogant, rude and crude minister come in my way irritated me a little more.

As aggressively as Mr Sibal I said to the security guard that the facilitation officer had sent me right back and I had to enter now and I was not going to wait till 2 or 215pm. Well the aggression worked.

Again asking for directions from the people around I reached the specified room. As I entered I was shocked to see the state of this government office. There was a dirty stale stench in the room that reminded me of toe jam. As I entered a man was sprawled on two chairs sleeping. I had to squeeze my way in so as not to disturb his slumber. All the women were sitting together at one end of the office sharing lunch and chit chatting. Some other staff had head phones on were glued to the Internet watching live news of Anna Hazare’s arrest.

I asked for the officer I needed to hand over the nomination to the section officer. I was directed towards a passage that again was not accessible for me. Somehow I did manage to hand over the nomination finally. Now after having gone through this sad experience where everything from the building to the systems were inaccessible, I really hope that my colleague receives the much deserved award.

It was eerie in some ways. Each government employee had the same complacent expression on their face as though there was nothing could touch their incompetency. There is no reason for them to worry about the anti corruption movement presently staged in India; or should they be worried?

written by Shivani Gupta

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