Aadhaar is the new buzz word in India … every other day, various government officials come up with new notifications – your Aadhaar Card is now linked to your PAN card, your Aadhaar Card is now going to be linked to your flight tickets … so on and so forth.

I have not been too keen on procuring an Aadhaar Card – I have been closely following the public debate on this issue, and the general opinion appears to be that Aadhaar Card shouldn’t be mandatory for accessing most government services – I was waiting to see how the Supreme Court of India would settle the matter.

However, with recent notifications linking the PAN Card and bank accounts to Aadhaar Cards, I had no choice but to enroll for one.

 

I am currently visiting my parents in Siliguri, so I decide to apply for an Aadhaar Card right here – this is because my parents have successfully procured their Aadhaar Cards; since, I live the life of a bohemian vagabond (as my mom once described my life-style), it made sense to link my Aadhaar Card to my parents residential address.

I was told that the process of procuring an Aadhaar Card is painless – go to a centre, drop off your documents, smile at the web-cam, sign away your right to privacy and bingo – a shiny new Aadhaar Card will reach my address in a few months.

So, I looked up the website of the UIDAI – it is a good website – it lists all the operators who have set up Aadhaar Card centers in the city – even their phone numbers are listed, and they actually answer your call!

Wow! India Singing!

So, I began to call up the operators – beginning with the ones which appeared nearest to home … and that’s when the fun started … the first one told me, his internet link is not working …. the second one told me that the software is not working …. the third one asked me which gram panchayat I was located in and that I had to go to the operator who was located in my gram panchayat … this went on for some time …

Finally, after a few calls, one Mr. Radhe Shyam Prasad informed me that yes, his software is working, his internet is also working, his agency was also open and that yes, I could come right down and get work done – he even offered to pick me up from the nearest landmark.

My mom gave me a knowing look – something is wrong, why is he being so helpful.

Anyway, I decided to try my luck – I took a six-seater and then walked the rest of the distance to his agency which was located in the middle of nowhere – see photo below –

IMG_20170619_110107486.jpg

Mr, Radheshyam and his accomplice appeared pleasant enough – they went out of their way, helping me fill in the documents, collecting my biometrics and then after taking a printout of the receipt, just as I was about to leave .. they dropped the bombshell, I was waiting for – please give us Rs. 100/-

I smiled at them and said – Aadhaar Card is supposed to be free.

They defiantly replied – we are a private service provider

I said – I will not pay

They threatened me – We will delete your records.

I was disturbed, disgusted and dismayed.

Bloody goondas – how dare you threaten me?

 

I can afford to pay Rs. 100/- …. but think of the countless numbers of poorer people who they have coerced into paying up – Rs. 100/- probably is worth a whole day’s meal for them.

I clicked the photo pasted above, and threatened them – I will complain against you

They got agitated and replied – Do whatever you want

So, I began walking back to the nearest point from where I could take a six-seater back home. A person in a bike followed me all the way till I boarded a six-seater – and braked his bike right next to me – as if threatening to run over me – dickhead!

I came back home – and went back to the UIDAI website – and began dialing operators who were located in the main city – I got the same kind of replies – we only do 25 cards in one day and we are done for the way … we will reopen only after 15-Aug….

… not just private operators….operators located within government offices within the city gave me the same kind of replies…

Finally, one operator asked me to come over to his agency the next day … Relief!

Today morning, I landed up at his agency at around 930 am – I waited for some time, and finally some body informed me that the software is down … according to him the software is down across all agencies in Siliguri ….

I did not give up hope … I began to call up the remaining ones …finally I reached one Mr. Gautam Malakar … who informed me that yes, everything was working fine is his office and that I could come over.

To keep the rest of the story short, things were actually working in his agency – he completed all the processes, got me enrolled and yes, most importantly he did not even hint at a bribe!

There must be atleast 20 Aadhaar Card centers in Siliguri & Matigara – I must have tried reaching out to atleast 10 to 15 of them.

Only one agency was doing the job as it is supposed to be done!

Hats off to Mr. Malakar!

If you are in SIliguri and you need to enroll for an Aadhaar Card, visit his agency –

He can be reached at –

CSC SPV

GOUTAM MALAKAR, 18 PANCHANAN SARANI ASHRAMPARA NEAR AMTALA CLUB, Darjeeling, Siliguri, Siliguri ( M. Corp), West Bengal – 734001

Contact No. 8016790526

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Aadhaar means brightness…. But the sad truth is that almost all Aadhaar Card centers in Siliguri & Matigara are dens of darkness …. except for a few thin strands of sunlight… in agencies operated by people like Mr. Malakar.

…. And yes, I got enrolled for an Aadhar Card … without paying a bribe!

The sad irony is that this shouldn’t have sounded like a success story … if only our public provisioning system wasn’t so corrupt and so messed up.

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