Amid lockdown and restrictions in various parts of the country, applying for travel passes within and across state lines remains a hassle for many
Since the unprecedented Covid-19 second wave has taken the country by storm, states across India resort to implementation of lockdowns. While some states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, West Bengal and Punjab have strict Covid-19 curbs in place with additional measures like a weekend lockdown and night curfews, others have opted for a complete lockdown to break the chain of transmission and bring the rising number of infections under control.
Amidst these restrictions, governments across state lines have allowed certain activities to ensure essential services are not affected. In states with partial lockdowns movement of individuals is also allowed for a variety of reasons for which governments are issuing e-passes. These passes can be applied for through government websites and can be obtained after providing identification and valid reasons for movement during restrictions.
However in a country with around 45% internet penetration, expecting every individual to have internet access or be savvy enough to apply for a pass seems like a far fetched idea. Especially in states like Uttar Pradesh, where even in the capital city of Lucknow, connections can be dodgy at times — applying for an e-pass can be an uphill task.
This is when other variables are not taken into account — which includes the ability to resize images for uploading on government websites, availability of uninterrupted network as one needs an OTP to register and apply for an e-pass, and the abundance of patience as it takes multiple attempts to get everything right.
Patriot recently had the unpleasant experience of trying to apply for an e-pass for travel within Uttar Pradesh. This was still an easier task, as compared to what people living in Delhi and looking to travel to UP have to go through.
For starters, we were not going to cross any state lines so we did not have to apply for multiple passes from different state agencies. However to travel from Noida to Lucknow, we did need a valid pass to cross district lines, which proved to be challenging.
Receiving OTPs on these bad network days is not an easy task, and after multiple attempts we were finally able to register to apply for a pass. Next we had to upload the identification card which can either be an aadhar card, a driver’s license or pan card.
Even after uploading all the documents and photographs, it showed errors after submission. Not once, not twice, but after trying over twelve times, we finally gave up and relied on our press card.
However, getting the e-pass is not the only government service that we struggled with. Like many others, we also had trouble registering on the Cowin website to register for the vaccine. Thankfully, we did not have to wait to get the OTP, but like many we are still waiting to get a slot to get the vaccination.
Since we were staying in Noida at the time of registration, and had plans of traveling to Lucknow, we looked for a slot in Delhi, Noida and Lucknow but could not find a single slot till the end of May.
Word of mouth suggests that you keep scrolling through the Cowin in your free time to look for slots and you might just get lucky. Wanting to try that, Mansi Dua, a working media professional based in Delhi tried her hand at the Cowin app. “I thought it would be easier to have a mobile application on my phone and look for the slots whenever I get some free time. But the app just doesn’t send OTP on my number. I tried with multiple numbers, but no one received an OTP and I could not register.” However, Mansi was able to register on the website, but she too was unable to find a slot.
At a time when social distancing is of paramount importance to ensure health, the use of internet based applications for issuing passes and registering for vaccines seems like a good idea. However, keeping in mind that despite the increasing penetration of the internet in the country — around 55% of the population still does not have access to a stable internet connection of hardware for its utilization.
This also happens to be the most vulnerable section of the population as healthcare infrastructure as well internet connections are dodgy at best in rural areas. In such a scenario expecting people to be able to register for vaccines online and access, or rather navigate, government websites for passes to travel for essentials is like trying to place an order on Amazon while using a bar phone on a wifi connection that doesn’t seem to be working.