Bureaucratic Red Tape


There was an article by Shobha De long ago, it was in the Indian Express I think, that spoke about speed breakers. She compared the bureaucracy to speed breakers and the potholes on Indian roads. The article kind of stuck in my head and every time I encountered bureaucracy I would think of the article. The part that really stuck was the analogy and over the years I began to think that the west did not have much of bureaucracy because of the lack of speed breakers on their roads. Going by my logic Germany should have zero bureaucracy.

I spent this morning in performing a totally unnecessary activity, one that could only have been thought up by a bureaucratic idiot. Any foreigner in the Netherlands who intends to stay for over a week has to report to the local Police Station and have their passport stamped. Along with this they are given a piece of paper that must be retained for the duration of the trip and handed over to the passport officer at the time of departure. This slip of paper is then sent back to the police station where it was issued so that “we can be sure that you have left the country”. Terribly welcoming!!

After locating the police station where this frivolous activity could be undertaken, we drove to the place. The drive itself was though some very beautiful and open country. Along the way we passed castles, windmills, farmer’s trucks along side BMWs and Beatles. Nice.

At the police station we had out names taken down by a receptionist who then asked us to wait.

Next a very talkative lady called us into her cabin and gave us each a piece of blank paper. On these we were to write our addresses back home.

Next she took each of our passports and began banging away at a computer in front of her. She entered “your entire biographies”, as Olger so effectively put it. All the information she pounded in came from the passport, except the Indian address which she took from the papers we had written it on. Many a suspicious beep later, she reached under her desk and produced a box of stickers and a slip of paper. I almost thought that she was pulling a gun to shoot all four of us, Olger, Warisa, Saurabh and me.

On both these she wrote another ton of information. The sticker she stuck on to one of the pages of the passport, the slip of paper she handed to us.

The wasted time and energy reminded me of something that happened at Zurich airport. We had presented ourselves at the boarding gate and handed over our perforated boarding passes. Usually, one part is retained by us and one by the airline. The process is simple enough – the airline personnel tears along the perforation, and returns our part of the pass. At Zurich they have a machine to assist the airline personnel with this highly demanding task. She takes the pass, feeds it to the system and our part of the pass pops out the other end. Tearing along perforation made simple.

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