Surojit GuptaHaving covered government policy for years, I have lost count of the number of foreign businessmen I have heard complaining about how difficult it was to set up in India. But a visit to a government passport office just outside the capital this week showed it can be just as frustrating getting out.

The government has been talking about easing rules for the issue of passports, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has time and again called for better governance.

Both were in short supply in Ghaziabad, a chaotic urban mess in Uttar Pradesh state, one of India’s least developed, where to get anything done, it seems, you have to call in a favour.

The city’s passport office is stuck in a time warp, hours spent there a harrowing experience with applicants navigating a string of unhelpful and grumpy officials who communicate only in grunts.

Having to go overseas for work, I was willing to pay more to have my passport issued under a scheme for urgent cases but soon found that guaranteed nothing.