The Ministry of External Affairs, which on Thursday had announced plans for a Passport Mela over the weekend to clear the huge backlog of applications, said on Saturday that the event, which began during the day at several Passport Seva Kendras (PSKs) across the country, might be extended to other places as well.

MEA Additional Secretary (Consular Passport & Visa Division) Basant Gupta said a call will be taken on expanding the scheme that depending on the feedback from Regional Passport Officers (RPOs). About 30,000 passports applications are expected to be processed over the first weekend of the special exercise. “If there is a need and depending upon the feedback from our RPOs we will extend the scheme and will also cover more passport offices and more PSKs,” Mr. Gupta said.

In a first, the Ministry had announced on Thursday that a Passport Mela will be organised over the weekend in order to facilitate clearance of more applications pertaining to issuance and renewal of passports. As part of the measures to clear the backlog across seven States, a number of PSKs organised the special camps on Saturday. The PSKs are also scheduled to operate at full strength on Sunday to cater to the rush of applicants.

During the Mela, people can just walk in without any online appointment to submit their documents for obtaining a passport. The measure was taken by the Ministry to tackle the heavy backlog of applications due to the holiday rush.

Mr. Gupta said he personally visited a PSK on Saturday and received a good response from the people. He expected a good turnout on Sunday too. This practice will continue till the entire backlog has been cleared, he assured.

The official also noted that the staff of the passport offices and service provider Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) will work seven days a week in view of the special camps. He also delved at length to highlight the efforts being made by the staff to ensure quick and timely delivery of the passport to the common public. Mr. Gupta said people need not give their finger prints and biometric information during the Mela, but need to furnish their signature and photographs. However, this exception, he said, is being made only for the Mela, adding that “enough security measures have been put in place to ensure that security concerns do not get compromised.”

The MEA official also talked about a proposed operational manual for the staff of passport offices in order to deal with a variety of documents required for the issuance of passport. “Different States issue different kinds of certificates which are not necessarily similar. So in order to equip our own staff we are coming up with a quick training manual”.

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