E-passports to be introduced from next year: Prabab

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Raipur, Dec 15 (UNI) Bio-metric passports, bearing finger prints and other biological features of the holder, will be introduced from next year, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said today.

Speaking at a function after inaugurating the regional passport office here in Chhattisgarh this evening, he said these bio-metric features would ensure that passports were not forged.

''Besides, it will also help detect other irregularities in obtaining travel documents,'' he added.

Stating that steps have already been initiated to issue e-passports, also known as bio-metric passports by 2008, he Minister said these passports would contain a chip with all the personal particulars, facial image and the prescribed bio-metric features of the holders.

Pointing out that all 34 passport offices in the country were fully computerised, he said there was scope to make further improvement by introducing better and latest information technology solutions that have become available as a result of rapidly growing IT. He said there was also a need to further simplify the procedures to reduce paper work to the barest minimum.

Mr Mukherjee said the government had entrusted the National Institute of Smart Government (NISG), Hyderabad, with the task of undertaking a time-bound study on the passport issuance system, including IT aspects. The NISG has already submitted its report, which has been accepted by the government, he added.

Union Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahmed said more than 13,000 passports were issued by regional passport office Bhopal to the people of Chhattisgarh. In the first eleven months of this year, more than 15,000 passports have already been issued to applicants from Chhattisgarh, he said.

He pointed out that the number of passport applicants from Chhattisgarh was expected to be around 17,000 this year.

Expressing his gratitude to the External Affairs Minister for opening a passport office in Raipur, Chief Minister Dr Raman Singh urged the Centre to upgrade the Mana Airport in the state capital as an international airport.

Former Union Ministers Motilal Vora, Mr V C Shukla, former Chief Minister Ajit Jogi, ministers, MPs and MLAs were among those present.

UNI

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