As Indore-based couple Priyanka Tiwari and Manish Mudgal approached the Bhopal Collectorate on Tuesday for securing transit passes to go back home, they were made to run from one building to another as the government staff failed to offer any concrete information on the issuance of the passes.
The couple, who are private teachers in Rau in Indore were in Bhopal during the third week of March when suddenly the coronavirus-induced lockdown was announced.
"We had no idea about the process of getting transit passes.Some policemen posted in Gandhinagar area, where we have been staying, advised us to go to the Collectorate and secure passes," Priyanka told News18.
"We were not the only ones who had gone to secure passes as over two dozen people, mostly those belonging to the service class, were also there, trying to secure passes, " the couple said, adding that the staff kept sending them from one building to another as they gave unconfirmed information regarding the collector's whereabouts.
When they approached a different building, they were offered no information and were asked to leave by an officer.
They finally landed at the Jan Seva Kendra inside the Collectorate but were not provided with any information and again, were asked to leave.
When News18 tried to reach collector Tarun Pithode, a member of his team promised to help out the pass seekers.
Some of the pass seekers were also informed about the online link of MAP-IT to secure passes. The Indore couple, however secured the e-pass after the husband confronted officers at the Jan Seva Kendra for slackness of duty. The two are required to reach Indore for board exam paper evaluation duty.
Most of the applicants had no idea about the online process or had limited knowledge of mobile usage. One Kamlesh Kumar, a forest department employee had gone there to apply for a pass to reach Harda where his ailing mother is on her death bed. He later managed to apply for an e-pass with the help of a fellow pass seeker.
The pass seekers claimed that there was not even a board displaying information on issuance of e-passes at the Collectorate office and none of the staff posted there offered any convincing information.
A few media reports have claimed that there are middlemen involved in the issuance of passes who even charge exorbitant amount upto Rs 4,000-5,000 to issue a transit pass. Bhopal police have also arrested one person in this connection.
Social activist Ajay Dubey told News18 that the government's initiative to offer e-passes has fallen prey to massive corruption amid coronavirus outbreak. “If you are transparent, why not release the list of people who secured e-passes online,” demanded Dubey.
MAP IT, an entity of the MP government, runs the e-passes facility and has said that till date it has rejected 2.44 lakh e-pass applications and issued over 1.91 lakh e-passes to applicants.
The facility is also marred by persistent technical glitches.
Bhopal collector Tarun Pithode could not be reached for a comment despite repeated attempts.