The upcoming vacation season and Haj pilgrimage has sent the demand for passports soaring to an unprecedented level in the State.

While the demand for passports normally increases during this time of the year with a large number of people planning overseas visits during April-May, the Central Haj Committee's decision to make possession of a valid passport mandatory for applying for the Haj pilgrimage has added to the rush.

Though the Regional Passport Office, Bangalore, is not able to quantify the rise in number of applications, which are submitted online, the available appointments at the four Passport Seva Kendras (PSK) are being snapped up by desperate aspirants within minutes of its release at 6 p.m. every day on the Passport Seva Portal

“The appointments for the kendra at Lalbagh Road in Bangalore are taken within 4 to 5 minutes while the appointments for the kendra at Marathahalli do not last for more than 10 minutes. The appointments for PSKs at Mangalore and Hubli may last a little longer,” K.J. Srinivasa, Regional Passport Officer, Bangalore, told The Hindu . Owing to the rush, hundreds of applicants are facing a tough time securing an appointment at the PSKs.

The Regional Passport Office, Bangalore, releases 2,775 appointments every day for its four PSKs across the State. “Out of these, we have set aside a total of 325 appointments for Haj pilgrims, who are sent by the Karnataka State Haj Committee. So, this leaves us with 2,450 appointments for the general pool,” Mr. Srinivasa said.

Executive Officer of Karnataka State Haj Committee Ateeq Ahmed said a majority of prospective Haj pilgrims did not possess a passport. Last year, about 6,000 people performed Haj under the Haj Committee quota and an additional 4,000 through private operators. “But, the number of applicants last year could have been in the region of 20,000. This year, the number of applicants is expected to go up to 30,000 on account of the special significance attached to Haj performed on a Friday,” he said.