“Indian Passport fraud is a significant and continuously worrisome fraud challenge.” This was the assessment of certain U.S. consular officers. A cable (229319: unclassified, dated October 13, 2009) stated that though security features and quality control of current Indian passports had improved, “the issuance controls are lax and penalties are so inadequate that virtually anyone can obtain a genuinely issued, but fraudulent passport with near impunity.”

The problem, according to the U.S. officials, “lies in the production inconsistency and vulnerable source documents.”

Quality control is so lax that the security feature sometimes goes missing and “genuine passports issued on the same day at the same place can look entirely different.” Though police verification is a positive feature of the passport issuance process, such checks are often cursory at best, concluded the cable. It felt that documentation required for obtaining a passport could be easily obtained and fraudulent civil documentation is common in India. “Virtually all birth certificates, death certificates, and marriage registration documents can be purchased from corrupt local government officials or brokers,” it said.

The only silver lining, the cable ironically concluded, was the cumbersome Indian bureaucracy. “The application process for a passport can be extremely time consuming and laborious. Anyone with an urgent desire for a fraudulent Indian passport may thus pursue an alternative to acquiring a legitimate passport with fake source documents.”

(This article is a part of the series "The India Cables" based on the US diplomatic cables accessed by The Hindu via Wikileaks.)

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