Almost 10 months ago, we had a mini-event. Our car turned 3 years old! Is that a good thing? Well it is, considering that the loan was fully paid off. A month or so down the line, I got a letter from the car loan guys – duly filled in Form 35, NOC and Covering Letter. All that had to be done now was the removal of hypothecation from the RC book. Called up the loan guys and, no surprise, they firmly and politely told me that I’d have to get this done by myself.
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Now, I don’t know about you, but I am a confirmed IGOphobiac (suffer from fear of Indian Government Offices). Just the thought of having to approach any Government Office, let alone go there and do any transaction, makes my hands tremble and my forehead break out in cold sweat. Not that all experiences with Government Offices have been bad ones – I’ve had some surprisingly decent engagements with the Passport Office, for example – but the fear persists.
Naturally, as any other IGOphobiac would do, I searched for alternatives. My company has a Concierge service, and this was my first port of call. "RTO work? No problem, Sir!" the lady at the desk informed me with a smile. "Sure, we’ll de-hypothecate your RC book", she continued, "Cost? Rs. 1800, Sir", that too without batting an eyelid. When asked whether this wasn’t a little excessive (compared to the official fees of Rs. 100), she explained that they kept very little and most of the money went to the "RTO agents". We are, after all, a country of dalals!
My hesitation to spend Rs. 1800 and also use the services – directly or indirectly – of these agents, and my persistent IGOphobia ensured that nothing much happened for the next 10 months or so. However, late in October, I had to go to the RTO to accompany my wife who was applying for a learner license. Seizing the opportunity, I decided to give the proper way one chance – after all, I didn’t have much to lose, except maybe some time and a RC book.
The first step in victory is preparation. I carefully studied the RTO website and noted down all pre-requisites – RC book, Insurance, PUC, Form 35, NOC, etc. Then, anticipating issues, I took two photocopies of each document. After double and triple-checking, I was all set to go.
We reached the RTO office, off Hosur Road, at about 11 am on Monday morning. The scene was your typical government office chaos. Crowds of people milling about, and a few others who couldn’t have looked more like Touts, had they worn bright orange uniforms with the words "TOUT" emblazoned on them.
I left my wife in the queue for processing learners license and tried to navigate my way through the crowds of people and bad furniture. Luckily, I spotted what was possibly the ‘Information’ counter, and a lady behind it. Step O accomplished.
The lady was polite, to the point and informative. She directed me to pay the fees at the cash counter. On to the cash counter, where the person behind it asked me if the Inspector had checked my papers. "No", I said sadly, whereupon he told me to do this first.
For those of you who actually have an upcoming dehypothecation (or any other) RTO transaction, please read the RTO website (http://www.rto.kar.nic.in) – and make sure you know the procedure and have all the required documents. It’s that simple!
Now it was time to go to the Inspector. This is probably where things fall apart, I told myself, as I waited. I did have to wait for a bit, courtesy a lady who obviously thought that order of service should be as per size, not sequence of coming to the counter. But about 10 min and a lot of pushing, shoving and continuously thrusting my papers in front of the Inspectors nose later, he scanned through my papers. "Where’s the Envelope?" he barked. "Attach a SASE to the papers", he continued. Further questions were out of the question – he’d already turned his attention to the next set of papers thrust under his nose.
So, off I went, out of the RTO, to the shop next door, which conveniently sells juices, SASEs and does photocopying. Rs. 35 and 2 minutes later, I was back at the RTO, a SASE with my address neatly written on it in hand.
One more time of waiting at the Inspectors counter – this time slightly longer, as he had a bunch of papers, all neatly stapled in front of him, which he was signing with surprising speed and even more surprising lack of concern on the papers propriety. Finally, he looked at my papers, admonished me for not arranging them properly (they were not neatly stapled, but pinned clumsily together) and then scrawled his oh-so-valuable signature on them.
Back to the cash counter, where payment of the Rs. 100 fee took just a few seconds. Back, once again, to the Inspectors desk, this time with the receipt. Same old scuffles, but at the end of that my papers finally landed – with the Inspectors blessings – at the next counter, where I was told someone would process them. This someone – a lady – was off on a tea / coffee / bio break and took 15 long minutes to return. In the meantime, someone came and dumped another huge bunch of unending sets of papers on her desk, presumably for her to speed-sign, as well.
Finally, the lady came back and luckily for me, took my papers first, before attacking the bunch. "RC book Xerox", she asked. "For the acknowledgement", she explained, taking the Xerox copy from me, signing on it and writing some number, before handing it back. "Anything else I have to do", I asked a little unbelievingly. "No", came the reply, "it will take 7 – 10 days and the RC book will be sent to you by Speed Post".
And that was it. The transaction was over, leaving me absolutely thrilled. I’d done a transaction with a government office, in the proper manner – no bribes, no agents, just the proper process. About three weeks later – a little longer than the 7 – 10 days – I got my Speed Post, with my RC book. However, the system didn’t give up without one last attempt – this time, the Postman, who wanted Rs. 100 because he thought it was a license ("Dete hai, saab" – "people give me money, sir"). Of course, I politely told him to get lost. No hesitation there, at all!
Summary of transaction:
- Time spent at the office: about 1 hour
- Total Cost: Rs. 135 (Rs. 100 for the fee; Rs. 35 for the self-addressed stamped speed post envelope)
- Peace of mind and clear conscience gained by not succumbing to agents / touts: priceless!
So is my IGOphobia cured? Not completely, but I’m getting there! Next stop – get my Khatha without a bribe!