New Delhi: The
Passport Seva Project, an ambitious e-governance programme that
aims at passport delivery in three days, has entered its most
crucial stage. The rollout of 77 Passport Seva Kendras is expected
to begin any time now in major Indian cities and be completed by
Things have not been entirely smooth for the pilot project running
for the past year in seven centres in Karnataka and Punjab that
are part of the 77 kendras.
But now the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and the private
service provider, Tata Consultancy Services, are confident enough
to introduce the new system in the designated cities.
"We hope to start the Passport Seva Kendras (PSKs) within June in
Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala," a senior MEA official told
Thereafter, every month will see the opening of three to five new
centres, with 20 kendras becoming operational by September. "We
hope to have the total rollout by January 2012," he said.
This would mean there will be 77 PSKs functioning around the
country, along with the 37 current regional passport offices which
will be incorporated as back-up centres.
The project aims to streamline the process for issuing passports
that had become notorious for long delays and touts and has an
ambitious stated aim to deliver a passport within three days.
This month, the MEA will also operationalise the Central Passport
Printing Facilities in Delhi, which will mean that instead of
blank booklets, only filled-up passports will be sent directly to
the kendras, plugging a major security risk.
The other institutions required for the smooth functioning of the
project - data centre and disaster recovery centre - are already
The software application developed by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS)
to drive the entire project got its certification by a third party
audit agency under the Department of Information Technology in
January 2011. Incidentally, the start of the project last year had
been delayed due to critical errors in software, detected during
the testing process.
The crucial aspect of the project is the online application
process, with applicants being able to choose their desired date
and time for submitting documents for verification at the PSKs.
However, Bangalore applicants often found that the only
appointment slots available were after two weeks or more.
"We know that some travel agents with very fast computers were
logging in as soon as the appointments began in the morning and
filled in all the slots," said the official.
The problem was compounded by the fact that the kendras had been
instructed not to accept walk-in submissions.
After several complaints in Bangalore, the number of appointment
slots were increased substantially, walk-in submissions were
accepted in certain cases and a new centre was opened in the city
to deal with the backlog and additional rush.
One of the main lessons learned from the pilot project in
Bangalore was that the actual demand for passports may outstrip
that of any anticipated growth pattern.
"As the economy has prospered, one of the first things that are
applied for are passports," the MEA official said.
Accordingly, the layout and capacity of the new PSKs have been
revised to cater to any kind of additional demand.
In fact, the sharp rise in the demand for passports, even as
government manpower remained static, was one of the reasons for
going ahead with the project. The annual growth in the number of
new passports being issued has been about 20 percent in the last
few years, with the highest number of 5.52 million passports
delivered in 2010.
"Currently, only about five percent of India's 1.2 billion
population own a passport. The numbers will only rise and rise,"
said the official.
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