In 2006, the Supreme Court had made Marriage Registration compulsory for all Indian citizens in their respective states where the marriage is solemnized. I recently got married and having been aware of this fact, wanted to get my marriage registration completed within 30 days of my wedding.
With both Central and State governments promising digitization of services, I assumed that Marriage Registration could also be done online on a govt. portal and we could simply walk to the registrar office on an allotted slot to complete the formalities just like an online passport application. Oh Boy, was I wrong!
I visited the nearest Sub Registrar Office and the moment I stepped in, I was greeted by a man who was jovial with all the employees and was walking in and out of the enclosure where all the files were kept. I assumed he were a clerk at the Sub registrar Office. He asked me if I needed help? I said I needed to know the procedure for Marriage Registration. He said that he is the one who handles these everyday and it would cost me “just” Rs.1700/- (Seventeen Hundred). I thought the quoted amount was too high and I should look it up online to avoid getting fleeced.
I went back home and a simple google search with the keywords “Telangana Marriage Registration” revealed a link to Telangana Registration and Stamps Department which listed all the required documents. I was shocked to see the fee for registration. The fee quoted for Marriage Registration was Rs.200/- (Two Hundred). The so called agent demanded a sum of 1700 for a process that needs just 200. I wondered, why he would demand 8.5 times the required fee for such a simple process.
I read and re-read every point in detail and made all the necessary documents and proofs ready. I went to the office the next day and confronted the man (agent). He said “1700 is the amount we agents charge and tell me one shop here that does it for less… Get it done by yourself if you know everything”. Challenge Accepted!! I decided to go by the book and see how long it would take to complete the process.
I found the “May I Help You?” sign with a man sitting next to it. I approached him with all the documents I got based on the checklist mentioned online. The attitude of this man appeared anything but helpful. So much for the sign! He was literally scolding people who would come to him to ask doubts regarding documents or procedure. I don’t understand what warrants such rude behavior from some people at govt. offices.
Finally, after multiple questions and irritating half answers, I managed to put all the things required for marriage registration in order and asked three of my friends who attended my marriage to come down to the Sub Registrar Office the next day for witness signatures. The next Morning, since my friends were 30 minutes away from the office, I decided to talk to the clerk again just to verify if I hadn’t missed anything. He took a look at all the papers and said that I am at the wrong office and my address falls under a different jurisdiction. I asked him why he hadn’t told me this the day before when I visited him. He said “I am telling you now. Go to the correct office”. I wanted to wipe that smirk on his face with a sledge hammer but this isn’t GTA! Who are we kidding here?
I regained composure, googled the location of the mentioned office and went there with my wife. I called my friends there too and shared my location so that they could easily navigate. I thought this is going to get over soon since I had all documents in order. Alas! I had to be proved wrong again.
A lady approached me while I was in queue at a counter in the Sub Registrar Office. I had seen this lady a minute ago, sitting next to the sub registrar’s desk, stamping documents. She asked what I needed. I said I needed to register my marriage. She took the documents from my hand and said I would require a 2 rupees stamp on the Form and the entire process would cost Rs.1200/- (Twelve Hundred). I remember not seeing anything about a stamp in the formalities listed online. I asked her why she was demanding 1200 for a process that takes 200 to finish. She was taken aback that I knew what to do! She was scaring unaware citizens and extracting money from them. When I did not budge, she said it is festival time and I should give her 500 at least.
I didn’t want to create a scene and gracefully declined. I stood in line and when my turn came, the clerk sitting at the registration counter said that the office that I went to yesterday, was the correct jurisdiction. That is when I lost my composure. I asked him to call the clerk at the other office and confirm which he did and they both seemed to have agreed that I was at the right place. My friends arrived there within 15 minutes. We waited another 30 minutes for our turn. I signed where I had to and so did my friends. I was charged a total of Rs.205/- (Two Hundred and Five) and was asked to come back after 3 days to collect my certificate. It did not end there. This lady who approached me earlier was so shameless that she was demanding money after I had completed all formalities in the name of a festival (Bonalu) that was approaching. I asked her to get lost!
These culprits at govt. offices are considering it their right to extort money for simple procedures. You may be thinking that spending a mere Rs.1700 is not a big deal but for an average citizen, it sure is. Change has to start with us isn’t it? Why bribe when you know what to do and how to do it? I helped at least 5 other people over there who were hesitant to ask for instructions. The smile of gratitude that they had on their faces made my day!
I went back after 3 days to collect my certificate and this experience left me with both sadness and happiness. Happiness, because I could get things done without bribing anybody and the fact that I could help few others. Sadness, because the basic roots of corruption/bribery are still strong and an average tax paying citizen has to fight the corrupt system even for basic procedures.
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