Here’s a concrete example of something trivial that, in the light of general principles, explains why governments of some countries are quite terrible in governing. This is a follow-up of the previous post, First Principle Explain a Lot.
Around 1.2% — 3.8 million — of the US population are of Indian ancestry. I am one of them. I estimate that around 1 million of us are US citizens and therefore need a visa to visit India. I also estimate that at least half of us (around 500,000) so-called “Non Resident Indians” visit India every year. The point to keep in mind is that the number is in the hundreds of thousands.
The Government of India recognizes some of the Indian diaspora as “Overseas citizens of India.” It’s idiotic to do so because the Indian government does not allow dual citizenship, and therefore it contradicts itself. But I will pass on that matter for now. Idiotic, illogical, and contradictory rules and regulations are par for the course when it comes to the Indian government.
The Indian government issues a type of “permanent residency” visa called the “Overseas Citizenship of India” through an OCI card. Around 6 million OCI cards are held by the Indian diaspora. That number is larger than the populations of dozens of countries. Thus policies related to OCI are not trivial. The cost of bad policies is immense.
The bureaucrats keep changing rules arbitrarily and don’t ever consider informing people of changes that negatively impact their plans. I have put some details of the OCI idiocy in the Notes below.
Here’s the summary. To get a visa, you start at the Ministry of External Affairs website. (I don’t recommend clicking on these links for sanity’s sake.) There you get bombed with a few pop-ups, starting with a Modi pop-up. You then have to click through many links and pages to arrive at the Authorized Portal for Visa Application.
I attempted to apply for a visa. You have to run the gauntlet of stupid captchas and then the real fun begins. It took me about 20 minutes to fill up around 10 forms, and I ended up with this final screen:
The image above is hard to read but if you click on it, you will have a legible image. You would learn two important facts:
- Why the Pakistani terrorist that attacked Mumbai had to arrive by boat. They wouldn’t have been granted a visa.
- Why the MEA bureaucrats are idiots with their heads stuck up where the sun doesn’t shine.
After I declared that I wasn’t a terrorist, hadn’t ever engaged in drug trafficking, child abuse, committed crimes against women (apparently crimes against men don’t count), economic offence or financial fraud, I was able to “save and continue.” That got to to this page:
So now I was ready to “Book Appointment.” Really? Why? I thought this was an online application. But never mind. I clicked on that button. I landed on a Cox & King Global Services page:
Right up there, it says, “CKGS contract with the Government of India has ended October 31st, 2020.” You realize that:
- The MEA bureaucrats are criminally incompetent retards. They couldn’t be bothered to update a website that is probably used by hundreds of thousands of people.
- The MEA bureaucrats will never pay for the costs they impose on people. They will continue to get fat at the expense of ordinary Indians and ignorant foreigners who are stupid enough to want to visit India.
- The MEA bureaucrats probably do more damage to India than the Pakistani terrorists did when they killed a few hundred people in Mumbai.
No private corporation would dare put any of its customers through this kind of rigmarole. Why? Here’s the general principle: market competition. Competition force corporations to do the reasonable thing. A corporation that is unconcerned with the user experience online would go out of business in a hurry. People would not put up with idiocy because they have options.
Government institutions — like the visa granting agencies — don’t have to worry about competition. They have the power to make arbitrary rules and impose them at whim. The bureaucrats have enormous power and are totally unaccountable. Consequently, they impose whatever cost they wish and don’t have to fear that they will not be paid by the people who are forced to get whatever they mandate.
In the next bit, I will go into the principles that explain why government bureaucracies lack competence in general, and in particular why Indian bureaucracy is arguably the worst in the world. Keep in touch.
1. I got myself an OCI card in 2007. Since then I have entered India 23 times using it as a visa, the last time being in July of 2019. To clear immigration upon landing in India, I show the OCI “passport” and a corresponding “visa sticker” that is stuck to the US passport book that I had back in 2007 (which I have to carry with me, although it has long since been canceled and replaced.)
The Govt of India changed OCI rules in 2005. Note that I got my OCI card in 2007, and was reliably informed that it was a “permanent visa” that will last a lifetime. But it does not. The 2005 rules say that you have to renew the OCI visa. At this site — Ministry of External Affairs, Govt of India — you will find that though the rule was made in 2005, “the Government of India has decided to grant temporary relaxation till 30th June 2020.”
Not even once (out of the 23 times I entered India with the OCI card) was I given even a piece of paper saying that I should get a new OCI visa before June 2020, or else I will not be able to enter India after that date. It’s not the government’s job to inform me of the rules it arbitrarily makes and implements at whim.
Just yesterday, a friend told me that I had to get myself a new OCI visa or else I will not be able to enter India after June 30, 2021 (which is another extension.)
Here’s what would have happened. On July 4th, 2021, at the check-in counter for boarding a flight to India, the airline check my Indian visa and tell me that it is no longer valid and they’d refuse to allow me on the flight because airlines are held responsible if they bring in passengers without proper visas. I would have lost time, money and peace of mind.
It should be an easy task to get a new OCI card but is actually nightmarish. The site is, to put it mildly, insanely designed. You have to click through many pages of nearly incomprehensible instructions. A web page from a third party (Cox & Kings Global Services) helpfully lists the various steps.
I don’t recommend wasting time there. Here I will briefly mention the insanity (a word overused in this context but necessary) of it all. First, you have to fill in a few online forms with a lot of caveats and conditions. If you misunderstand any of the complex rules and make any error, you will be told after 4 to 6 weeks after you submit the application with the required fees (more about that below) that your application is rejected and you will have to start all over again.
We are used to submitting online forms online. But there’s a twist here: after you fill in the online application, you have to print out the forms and mail them to a particular consulate/embassy depending on where in the US you reside. Just think about that for a bit. Submit application online and then mail them a hard copy.