E-Passports to be issued by May 2011

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Responding to insistence from the international community, there is a move currently to issue all Indian citizens traveling abroad with machine-readable e-passports containing a chip with all biometric identifications such as fingerprints. Speaking at a meeting at Indian Merchants' Chamber, Mumbai's Regional Passport Officer Mr. Vinay Kumar Choubey said that his office would start issuing e-passports to fresh applicants as early as April or May 2011. This would greatly reduce immigration clearance time everywhere by 40%, he asserted. "In fact, in association with IIT Kanpur, we have already started issuing diplomats with e-passports, and their experience is that it has speeded up matters," he said.

Mr. Choubey spoke of a number of initiatives undertaken by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). One of these was to introduce paperless processing following a MoU with TCS. Submissions of fresh applications will be handled by TCS directly, wherein the applicant's details will be fed directly into the system, and supporting documents will be verified and scanned. The applicant would have to wait for a couple of hours while this was being done, during which he would meet first an Inspection Officer, who would verify the documents, and then the Granting Officer, who would either immediately grant a passport (subject to police verification) or reject the application. "Through this measure, and through closer interface with the police, our target is to issue a passport under the Tatkal scheme within one day, and the other passport within three days," Mr. Choubey said.

To mitigate the rush at the main Passport office in Mumbai, and to improve efficiency, two measures were simultaneously in progress. Firstly, a very large two-storey office was being built by PWD at Bandra Kurla Complex. Secondly, three Passport Seva Kendras would be opened - two in the suburbs, and one in South Mumbai, by next year.

"Even at present, we have eight centers to receive applications spread across the city-- five under police authorities, and three under postal authorities," he pointed out. "Some of these are at places like Chembur, Bandra and Kandivali. We also have eight police offices authorized to receive applications in Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg, Beed, Aurangabad, Daman etc. But still, applicants tend to come to our main Passport office in Mumbai," Mr. Choubey added.

In the course of the meeting, he detailed several other initiatives were in progress such as sending SMS alerts to applicants in case of objections, and Over-The-Counter handling for minors, public servants, tatkal and other cases where police verification was not required. "In such cases, if the person across the counter is satisfied with the details provided, a passport is immediately issued in a very substantial proportion of the cases," Mr. Choubey said.

Source : India PR Wire

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