Govind D. Belgaumkar

Rs. 1,000-crore worth contract signed with TCS

External Affairs Ministry proposes to open 77 kendras

MANGALORE: People of Udupi and Dakshina Kannada districts can hope to get their passports within three days of submitting their applications, if the Union Government’s plan to speed up the process materialises.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), which has signed a Rs. 1,000-crore contract with the software major Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) to streamline passport services, plans to set up 77 kendras in the country under the new “Passport Seva Project”.

Minister for External Affairs Pranab Mukherjee has written to Union Minister of State for Labour and Employment Oscar Fernandes that one of the kendras would be set up in Mangalore.

Mr. Mukherjee’s statement assumes significance because a large number of youth in the coastal districts aspire to work in West Asia. The Passport Application Collection Centre (PACC) at Mangalore receives about 170 applications a day.

Mr. Fernandes had forwarded a memorandum from the city-based Social Action Group for Empowerment (SAGE) to Mr. Mukherjee seeking upgrading of the PACC to a full-fledged passport office. Mr. Mukherjee had replied that this was not possible owing to manpower constraints. P.V. Mohan, SAGE convener, has once again demanded that a full-fledged passport office be opened here.

Mr. Mukherjee has said that the passport system in the country will “go live” by January 2010 to ensure deliverance of “passport-related services in a timely, transparent, and reliable manner”. He has promised that opening of more kendras in the region would be considered later.

Role of kendras

Mr. Mukherjee told the Lok Sabha, in reply to a marked question on December 10, 2008, that the kendras would have non-sovereign functions involved in passport issuance such as initial scrutiny of application forms, acceptance of fee, scanning of documents and taking photos. Sensitive activities such as police verification, printing and dispatch of passports would be performed by government staff.

The project aims at issuing passports in three days of receipt of applications at passport offices against the existing period of 45 days. Tatkal passports will be made available within 24 hours. The Ministry is hopeful of issuing 1 crore passports by 2011 as against 50 lakh issued in 2007, Mr. Mukherjee had said.

Although sources in the Ministry of External Affairs said that it would be possible to issue passports in three days, the district administration here is not too sure.

The sources in the External Affairs Ministry said the entire process would be done through email. The kendra would send an email to the police for verification and they would send their reports via email. “This will make it possible to issue passports in three days,” the sources said.