Hitchhikers’ Guide to Indian Government Services

My list of ‘top things to be vary of’ if you should by utter misfortune have to spend a significant amount of time in India, Delhi or have to take recourse to any govt monopolized service this side of the planet include what the government of India classifies as a part of its ‘Essential Services Act’. Funnily enough, the most essential part of these services money and transport are essential because they are conspicuous by their absence as usable service!

Should you need to ever open a bank account at the State Bank of India. One cannot cash a demand draft for any amount less than Rs 10,000 in less than 10 hrs– for a figure above Rs 10,000 you can safely add a week, long afternoons in queues and a marked reduction of patience with the passage of time.

Should you want to open an account it is YOUR duty to make a trip to any other SBI Bank branch with the radius of the city that they point you to– in order to obtain the mandatory 17 page form. Murphy’s new law dictates that “Any form you wish to have access to any point in time, will be unavailable” SBI in complete violation of this law; never has any form available.

If by any quirk of fate you already posses an SBI atm/debit/credit card; the card shall be rejected one out of every two times you try to obtain some cash, by the third attempt the ATM will swallow it. Minimum recovery time for the card is one month and most likely will go on till infinity or till when you give up and change banks whichever is earlier.

Global Banking allows one to withdraw money from ATM’s across the country that do not work. Please note that one cannot use a cheaque/withdrawal slip to access one’s own money if your account is in a different city. If you lose your card you cannot be issued a new one if your account is in a different city. This results in compulsory saving; since you cannot withdraw any money, your money remains locked in your SBI account accruing poultry sums of interest which diminish at the end of the year unless you have managed to withdraw money before the year is up, which is very unlikely.

Remember: Your time is of no value, customer service does not exist and SBI’s claim to fame is “The largest Bank of India”

Delhi has two bus systems- bluelines and DTC’s. DTC’s are preferred, but are completely invisible to the untrained eye. They frequent bus stops as frequently as swans visit desserts. Occasionally one might see one- which will then refuse to stop. Bluelines are plentiful, they operate to a timetable that deludes the average bus-traveler. No blueline will move unless it has exceeded its carrying capacity by over three times. Average starting time from when you board it till its first movement is 45 minutes and average travel time between two bus stops is ten. This means that one travels approximately for 10 minutes for every 45 min break.

If one has to travel from North to South Delhi a distance of thirty odd kilometers you have two options:

Change three buses from point A to B and then to C and then walk to your destination in the extreme heat or cold, with vendors who’ll serve you stuff to give you Jaundice, Meningitis and other deadly diseases that could kill you, have plenty of opportunity to get sexually abused, pick-pocketed and get very very tired. Alternatively you could take a bus that will take you to your destination in two hours, traveling the most impossibly curvaceous route possible, along the most congested road thus providing you with the opportunity to again get sexually assaulted if you get a seat or to murder your legs if you don’t and see the entire city.

If you choose to give the bus a pass you can take an auto. An auto after several refusals to drive you that monstrous distance will have a meter that will never work, an auto driver who will quote you a price which is on average two and half times the actual cost and who will after bargaining also take a strange route and a) Knife you or b) grab you or c) get into a fight or an accident and cause you to change autos mid-way.

It is recommended that you do not try and travel at all. Notice there is not one bus you can take that takes the shortest distance between point A and B, what is in physics known as displacement.

Strangely, the bus system also boasts of being “The largest…. Public transport system in the world”

If you need to catch a train to some other part of the country thanks to an emergency you can try your luck at the closest railway reservation office: Railway reservation offices are characterized by lack of chairs, obscenely long queues of obscene people, surly ticketeers, murky and gloomy claustrophobic rooms, loud cacophony composed mostly of profanity, shoves, absence of railway time tables and pimps…

The Indian railways has all of four trains running five times a week between two major destinations in a country of a billion plus people. In order to book a ticket one must be able to foretell the time and date of their departure twenty days in advance. That majority whose life does not follow a babu-like slowness and predictability have the option to either buy a ticket adding the horrendously overbooked trains (to the tune of wait-listed travelers that run into hundreds) or to fight it out for the urgent travel option seats.

These seats are twenty per train (twenty-two bogies with seventy two seats each). One is required to arrive at a reservation office at 5 a.m. or earlier (really enthusiastic or exasperated travelers often decide to spend the night outside) wait till ten minutes to eight, then race to be first at the counter and then if lucky may get a ticket in the first three minutes failing which one might have to come back to race again the next day.

Surprise! Indian Railways too boasts of “Being the largest railway system of the world…”

One does not need a hyperspatial jump to recognize that being the ‘largest’ is the very problem of these systems. What is particularly strange about this nation is their selective blindness towards seeing anything wrong with these institutions. India is socialist without the slightest knowledge of the people that constitute society or what drives their behavior.

Dangerously, socialists also call themselves pro-poor. Sure they are pro-poor- the want to keep the poor poor! How much more anti-poor can you get if the railways, buses and other such ‘affordable’ institutions of society hurt their poor users the most. Strangely enough- lower air fares and constant availability have come in with the open-sky policy, greater competition and private players.

In the meantime let those who can afford only trains– miss interviews, exams and perhaps even lose loved ones because ‘the largest railways of the world’ ran out of tickets and trains for their 1 billion plus customers….

3 thoughts on “Hitchhikers’ Guide to Indian Government Services

  1. This is one of the most well-articulated piece I’ve read on the horror that is the PSU!
    Funny how through all the political muck a “democracy” like ours generates, with the common man’s hard earned money being thrown down the drain by conducting elections, dissolutions, re-elections, dissolutions, re-re-elections and then some, we also claim to be the “world’s largest democracy”.



  2. Damn insightful piece! Systems wearing “largest” on their sleeve as if it was an accolade! Good, keep it up!


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