e-passports to be issued soon: Pranab

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Chennai, June 3 (UNI) Stating that the pilot project of issuing e-passports in diplomatic and official categories was almost complete, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee today said it would become a reality for ordinary passports by the second half of 2009.

''We will start issuing these passports (for diplomatic and official categories) in the coming weeks and by the second half of 2009 in the category of ordinary passports,'' the Minister briefed newspersons after reviewing the functioning of the passport offices in the southern states.

Asserting that his Ministry had taken a number of steps to make the procedure of issuing passports simple, he said the passport seva project would be implemented successfully next year.

Mr Mukherjee said the new passport office in Coimbatore would be opened next year.

Pointing out that there had been significant improvement in the functioning of passport offices, he said 50 lakh passports were issued in 2007, compared to 44 lakh the previous year.

The passport offices in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Karnataka had issued about 21 lakh passports last year, accounting for 42 per cent of the total passports issued.

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