Passport Seva Kendras will come up at 77 places in the country in a phased manner on the basis of the experience gained in two pilot projects being implemented in Bangalore and Chandigarh, Union Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor said here on Thursday.

Mr. Tharoor was talking to reporters after visiting the Coimbatore Passport Office. He was received by the Coimbatore Passport Officer, B. Balamurugan. The Minister interacted with waiting applicants.

Responding to queries, Mr.Tharoor said that before the end of this year, such Kendras would come up at a considerable number of places. Every State would have more than one Kendra. The locations would be decided on the basis of the volume of applications and not on the basis of geographical area or population.

To a query on simplifying the procedures and formalities involved in applying for a passport, Mr.Tharoor said that considering the security perception, the Union Home Ministry was unwilling to relax the norms.

The Ministry had a worrying case in North India, where two Pakistani nationals had taken passports even after police verification. “An inquiry is on into the incident,” he said.

On including postal identity cards as acceptable documents for passport application proof, Mr.Tharoor said that the list of acceptable documents were revisited on a number of occasions and soon the unique National Identification Card could also be accepted as a proof.

Appreciating the Coimbatore Passport Office for efficient handling of increasing number of applications, Mr. Tharoor said that he would seek an explanation first on why 33 posts were lying vacant out of the 55 sanctioned.

He said that steps would be taken to fill vacancies for increasing the staff strength at the passport office.

Asked about the apprehensions voiced by Passport Office Employees Associations on outsourcing of the job, Mr.Tharoor clarified that outsourced agency would only have an interface with the applicant and get the filled-in forms performing only non-sovereign functions.

The sovereign duties and responsibilities would continue to rest with the police for verification and passport office authorities for granting and issuance of passports.

The positive career growth of efficient and experienced passport office employees would be duly taken care of by giving them foreign assignments whenever the situations arose, he said.