Chennai Journal
Saturday, March 26, 2005
Doing the needful...
Had my first two encounters with the local government authorities this week, and one step closer to moving into the apartment.

The first was registering with the local immigration bureau, which is required if you have an employment visa or your stay in India will exceed 180 days. (A side benefit of the permit is that you then qualify for the lower resident rate on hotels, museum entrances, plane fares, etc.---a fraction of what foreigners pay). I was accompanied by our local government affairs person, Mr. Antony, who used to be the deputy police chief in Chennai. We went to a dingy old building in downtown Chennai, where---as anticipated---I went immediately to the head of a rather long line. I carried an application, my passport, a letter from the Company asking the chief immigration officer to "do the needful" (a regular phrase here that seems to mean, "do what is necessary") and grant me a residence permit. There were one or two papers missing, however, so Mr. Antony wheedled them into letting him return with them later in the day. I have another appointment there in a week to actually get the permit. One thing that impressed me was the fact that as we were leaving, Mr. Antony went back and personally thanked each person we had dealt with.

On Thursday, the shipping broker took me to air cargo section of the Chennai airport to clear customs on our air shipment. The area was quite crowded but again I went to the head of the line. After a few minutes, I was escorted back to the warehouse area where the chief inspector invited me to sit at a table, looked over the paperwork, and then asked me only one question: Did I have any electronic gadgets or a laptop? No. So we trooped back to the waiting area where I sat while the broker stood in three different lines to pay duties and obtain clearance to take possession of the shipment.

In my case, they didn't physically inspect or open any of the boxes. This part is fairly unusual so before leaving, the shipping broker told me, "We have to go back and thank the head inspector." So we trooped back to the warehouse area, said thank you, and shook hands. By now I'm beginning to get the picture---obsequiousness definitely seems to be the order of the day when dealing with the Indian bureaucracy--especially if, as is the case with Ford, you are unable to offer bribes.

On Thursday evening, the goods were delivered to the apartment, all in good shape. There's no air conditioning yet---that will be installed this week---so I'm still at the hotel.
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