IN the sprawling city of Karachi, a scene that mirrors bureaucratic nightmares of Kafkaesque proportions unfolds daily at the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) office in North Nazimabad. Citizens of this vibrant metropolis, desperate to have their CNICs made or renewed, or to make use of this essential service or that, are greeted with unending queues and hours of waiting regardless of weather; be it the scorching summer sun or the freezing winds of winter.
What makes this ordeal graver is the knowledge that one Nadra centre caters to a staggering population of almost 10 million, spanning neighbourhoods from Nazimabad to Surjani Town.
Such conditions not only highlight inefficiencies, but also raise serious questions about the state’s commitment to serving its people.
Upon delving into this issue, several challenges emerge. First, the sheer number of people reliant on a single service centre is overwhelming. According to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, neighbourhoods like North Nazimabad, New Karachi, Gulshan-i-Iqbal and Surjani Town collectively house millions. The inadequate infrastructure at the said Nadra office is hardly sufficient to handle this massive segment of populace.
While long waits can be tiresome, what rubs salt into the wound is the apathetic behaviour of Nadra staff. An efficient service delivery system must be anchored in respect and empathy. Disrespectful behaviour towards citizens not only tarnishes the reputation of an institution, but also belittles the struggles of individuals who generally take time off work, or travel long distances to access these services.
Addressing this dire situation demands immediate interventions. Increasing service capacity is the obvious first step. Opening more Nadra centres in densely populated areas will distribute the load, thereby reducing wait times.
Besides, introducing online services for tasks like form fill-ups can greatly reduce in-person processing times.
An organised appointment system could further streamline the process, allowing citizens to plan their visits and mitigate unexpected waiting periods.
If Traffic police can do that, why can it not be done by Nadra?
Moreover, providing sheltered waiting areas equipped with basic amenities, such as benches and drinking water, can improve the overall experience for those who must wait. This is especially crucial given Karachi’s extreme weather conditions.
Also needed is regular and compre-hensive staff training. All citizens, regardless of their background, deserves respect and courtesy. Regular evaluations and feedback mechanisms can ensure that service standards are upheld and any deviation is rectified promptly.
One might wonder if all this is even feasible. With political will and strategic public-private partnerships, these solutions are not just within reach, but can, in fact, be implemented swiftly. Collaboration with the private sector can expedite the process of opening new centres or technologically upgrading the existing ones.
It is upon us, the citizens, to raise our voice, share our experiences, and hold our institutions accountable. An efficient and empathetic service delivery system is not a luxury; it is a right.
As Karachi’s heartbeat continues to pulse with life and aspirations, it is time for its institutions, including Nadra, to match its pace, ensuring no citizen is left behind in the shadows of inefficiency.
Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2023