Touts blocking online slots, offering them for a price to applicants

Want to get a passport? Then shell-out Rs.1,000 just to book online slot to submit an application.

The touts are raking in the ‘moolah' ever since Passport Seva Kendras (PSKs) were launched amidst much fanfare. For, they are blocking away many online appointment slots at the kendras within the first few minutes of their release each day from 6 p.m. The hapless applicants are left with a website that apparently refuses to give the appointment slots of their choice. This leaves the applicants in lurch!

Many complain that the online portal ‘' does not open quickly while others say that the slots get exhausted within minutes of logging-in. While the applicants struggle with the website, the agents, however, are ready with an offer of an assured slot for Rs.1,000 within ten days. This raises doubts among genuine applicants whether the new PSK system was set to actually benefit them or the middlemen?

Though reasons for abrupt ‘filling-up' of slots in the website were yet to be ascertained, many allege that agents could have evolved a mechanism to book slots quickly before the genuine applicants log-in. This is denying a quick redressal through PSKs for passport seekers. The Regional Passport Office (RPO), Secunderabad, which earlier used to accept forms at over 45 e-Seva centres and seven post offices in the twin cities, has scrapped the facility after the PSKs were opened.

A nightmare

“It was earlier an easy facility for submission of applications and now it's a nightmare to get online slot,” rues an applicant. The commission of Rs.1,000 may also increase from February after district passport cells at the offices of Superintendent of Police stop receiving forms from February 1.

Many say submission of applications at the RPO, e-Seva centres and post offices was a far better option than that of PSKs. “How can an applicant from a rural area understand the online process? They have no other go but to approach the agents,” an activist of Right to Information Act, Sadiq Ali, says.