A Day in e-Registration Office

March 12, 2009, Kolkata: We were ready by 10AM as Upesh was to come to pick us up for the registration of the Yamuna’s 28 Kathas landed property of Konnagar. I was feeling feverish and had a mind for not accompanying Yamuna for registration, but suddenly I changed my mind. It appeared I would be first hand learning something. Another incentive was the plan of Yamuna to go up to Hind Motor. It was only on arrival of Pappu Singh, the lead buyer and Upesh who also had managed to get some share; I knew that the registration office selected was one near the Governor’s House, Raj Bhawan. I was delighted that we could be back in few hours and take our regular lunch.

Callcutta has changed not only in its ‘Kolkata’ name. I used to follow the same route that we took today to go to my office on the tenth floor of Birla Building for years while working in the corporate project planning of Hindustan Motors. The area called esplanade has changed and gone much cleaner and attractively greener. The registration office is in an old building of Raj days with typical high roofs, wide staircases and those huge wooden windows. But unlike the old registration offices, quite considerable facelifts with computers behind the glass partitions were pretty much visible. Unfortunately, the toilets are horribly smelly and dirty. I don’t know when the nation would learn to have good rest houses as essential part of any facilities for public. We could find some place to sit. Yamuna went with the wives of the buyers including Upesh’s wife. But waiting became longer and longer. A professional was readying the papers, photographs, drafts and documents for the five buyers. Yamuna had to get 10 passport size photographs in Park Street. Upesh had already got Anand’s photos from e-mail. Yamuna was made to sign in full on at least hundreds of pages, and to put impressions of all the ten fingertips. With no proper table, it was real arduous for her. However, she remained brave and maintained her cool. My coming became helpful as I assisted her in placing the fingers’ impressions in right places. Additionally I became the first identifier. Only by around 2PM, we found ourselves near the registrar presentation counter. After some annoyance and perhaps some price, the officer behind the glass partition agreed to consider the registration documents after a break. I was really feeling very much uncomfortable. It was getting late. I was hungry and thirsty too. I went back and bought some sweets from a local vendor that was really good. I gave one to Yamuna too. But then Upesh brought lot many biscuits.

With something in belly, I went back again inside where Yamuna was waiting. Fortunately, she could get a chair. Otherwise, perhaps it would have been difficult for her to continue. And then only my eyes could see a big poster about the e-registration office and the steps. It had all- presentation, data entry, scanning of documents, photo and biometric. At least I noticed three very awkward things. Data entry person was playing game on computers. Man at photo and biometric counter was an old man entering each letter on the computer with one of his fingers taking unnecessary time till he got his Rs 50 for each deed openly before my eyes. I felt like slapping him, but could one do that? The man at cash counter was calculating the state tax by a simple manual calculator taking a lot of time. Surprisingly, I could not see the chief registrar anywhere. I had a mind to talk to him. This is the story of an e-registration office. Who can make them efficient? Who can bring in them a sense of service for the people? Perhaps, I will have to take another birth to see the change, as it requires a mindset change. Computers and mechanizations can facilitate, but it can’t dictate people using it to work fast. The country and its people will keep on seeing the inefficiency and lethargies of the babus helplessly. How can we talk of innovation coming from these government employees for improving their performance for the benefits of the people they serve, if they keep on getting about Rs 1000 per registration as facilitation fee to be shared by all from top to bottom in the office? Any error in any document even a typographical error means more underhand money for the officer. With money, everything can be done easily and fast.

Amazingly to my query over the improvement with e-registration over the earlier manual system, one elderly man told me.” It takes more time now.”

It was only at 6 PM that we could return back to Salt Lake residence though after a very good belated lunch at Lime light near the Telephone Bhawan, courtesy Pappu Singh.

Before going to bed, I was going through my old dairies. I could get a mention of one such day in Sasaram. It was a Monday July 31, 1995. I was there for registration. For safety Yamuna had sent Bhagwandas along with me. I was to sign on the registration deeds for the properties of Bodarhi that I inherited from my mother and sold out of frustration and anger against the rogue relatives of that rogue village. The registration could not be completed even after all the influences of my maternal uncle and brother who were advocates there. I visited the village of my maternal uncle next day, as the court was closed.

What a coincidence! The land that Yamuna disposed off was bought out of money of Bodarhi’s deals. Bhagwandas inspired or rather instigated Yamuna to buy the land that was sold today. The same Bhagwandas and his sons tried all their means so that we could not sell the property. Interestingly, Bhagwandas had bought a land for himself also in strategic position around Yamuna’s land out of her money. Neither she nor I went even to see the land that he had bought. Bhagwandas and his sons wanted to capture the land for free.

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