Sunday, February 22, 2009

the government is online but.. inaccessible!

two recent instances:

1. my passport, that was recently re-issued, as my father's name mis-spelled! i was quite happy that i was able to complete the process for getting an additional booklet in the first visit to the passport office. as per the current process, they issue a new passport with a 10 year validity.i was able to track the progress of my application online, and when i noticed the details for confirmation had my father's name mis spelt, the website had a provision to send comments to a special mail id.
many attempts to send a mail, failed. after 4 days, i sent the details of the failed attempts to the PRO - as per the escalation procedure - which again, was impressive - to see a government department having all this clearly spelt out. no responses.
a few days later, the passport arrived - with the wrong spelling.
once again, the website was very helpful - apparently this is not very uncommon - all i had to do was to fill a form, that is downloadable from the website, send it by registered post and, if the fault was that of the passport office, i would get my corrected passport in 4-5 working days.
only problem was that the page was not accessible.
the only option i have is to go to the passport office once again - and hope that the process is as smooth and efficient as the last time.

2. i saw an announcement about the electoral rolls available for verification.
my first search for my name did not return any results.
then i searched for my wife's name.
again no results.
searched for a partial name - and found hers.
my name was misspelt in that.
with the mis spelling, i could locate mine!
this time, i could download the form for correction, without any problems.
but, i cannot submit the corrections online.
i need to make a trip to the municipal commissioner's office for that, where the electoral office is..

i am happy that a lot of information is available online.
it is a lot of relief - to not have to depend on interpretations of intermediaries.

it should only be a matter of time to actually transact government business also online.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

heights of automation: (im)personalized bankiing

I was among the first few hundreds of customers, when this bank launched their mainly off-branch service model.
time was, ATMs were not that common and using electronic banking was also a fancy.
those days, i used to get a printed statement or communication from the bank once a quarter or six months.

i had given a letter to the branch about 3 weeks ago. since then,  in the last 3 weeks, i [and my wife] received 6 snail mails - that had the following messages:
- we have updated your mailing address as requested
- we have updated your email address as requested
- we have updated your phone number as requested
all these mails were received in duplicate with identical content - each copy addressed to one of us!

today was the height:
it was a thank you note - that ran:
'We have observed that you had not been operating your account in the last six months. We are glad to note that you have resumed operations on the same recently. In case you require any assistance on the account, please contact us.
We thank you for banking with us
Sincerely Yours

no name. no street address.only a PO Box #.

i can understand that with automation, such letters can be generated automatically when some transaction is detected by the computer system.

i remember the 'letter to Mom' template that used to be part of the MS-Office installation many versions ago.
that used to talk of how everything was getting impersonalized and even writing to Mom might one day be templated...' etc etc etc

getting back to this bank that never sleeps - what i found most amusing was the letter that I had given to the bank was a request to close the account.

and, these letters started arriving AFTER i received a confirmation of account closure.

maybe it is the sleep deprivation that is making the computers also overworked and fatigued.
so much for personalized banking.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Ragi Gudda

I visited the Ragi Gudda temple after a couple of years.
it was evening and the temple was crowded.
i was happy to see that there has been a lot of 'development' such as paved, guided paths that took you along the optimal route while ensuring that you do not miss out on activities along the way, such as handling your footwear on your way in to getting your prasadam on the way out.
the steps to the top of the hill - location of the main deity - hanuman - is now paved with marble.
the paths now have railings that prevent straying away.

it was also good to see many youngsters visiting the temple.

but, what i missed were the intimacy and the freedom that i remember of the temple.
when we had moved to bangalore - about 18 years ago, this was one spot where we could spend time at leisure near the deities, then on the hill slopes which was a favorite for the kids.

but now, since it was the evening and a lot of crowd, one could not go around the deities. those paths were blocked.
nor could one step out of line to sit on the hill.

i guess that i should visit the temple very early one weekday morning to enjoy the magnificent view from the hill top.