With 195 cases of NRI husbands deserting their wives surfacing in the past two years, the Regional Passport Office (RPO) here is taking the matter seriously.
Regional Passport Officer E. Vishnuvardhan Reddy told the media on Saturday at the passport mela held for journalists, “The Ministry [of External Affairs] has asked us to be very sensitive towards women who have been affected by this.”
Past vs present
Sharing data, Mr. Reddy said 118 complaints were recorded last year and 77 this year. They included desertions, divorces, instances of domestic violence and dowry harassment.
To a question, he said Punjab with around 770 cases was among the other States which had received a larger number of complaints. Officials said not many approached the RPO to report desertions earlier. However, the numbers had increased in the recent past with the Ministry of External Affairs taking serious note of the situation. The RPO has been handling complaints which come to its notice from the police, the State Women’s Commission and other sources.
Mr. Reddy said passports were suspended in case there was a lookout notice, non-bailable warrant and court directions against the errant husbands. Complaints filed by third parties too are accepted and investigated.
Show-cause notices are being sent to the NRIs once the RPO receives complaints.
The RPO is also dealing with cases of foreign nationals claiming to be Indian citizens and fraudulently applying for passports. In the last two years, 93 passports have been revoked.
Mr. Reddy said Nepalis, Bangladeshis and Myanmarese had applied for passports using the Aadhaar cards, birth certificates and school certificates. But on account of police verification, the fraudulent activity was detected.
He pointed out that there had been instances in which Bangladeshis had claimed to belong to West Bengal. Upon verification, the claim was found to be false and prosecution of the accused had begun.
He urged applicants to be wary of phishing websites and underscored that www.passportindia.gov.in was the only genuine website. While the application fee for ordinary passport is ₹1,500, those masquerading as genuine websites have been charging up to ₹5,000.
The RPO has received 2.82 lakh applications and has issued 2.69 lakh passports in the last six months. While there is a pendency of around 2,500, a chunk of this is due to insufficient documentation which the applicant has provided.
Mr. Reddy said the RPO had the required systems in place to bring about the move from current passports to chip-based e-passports.