External Affairs Minister inaugurates passport office in Uttrakhand

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Dehra Dun, Jun 17 (UNI) External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee today said increasing overseas investment was propelling the strong growth of India's economy.

After inaugurating the state's first passport office here today, Mr Mukherjee said the boom in culture and tourism had attracted foreign investment and pushed India to emerge as a global player in international relations.

Congratulating Chief Minister B C Khanduri on the opening of the passport office, he said people of the state, especially those living in the remote hills, would no longer have to travel all the way to Bareilly to have their passports made.

He informed that the MEA was taking a number of steps to improve passport application procedures keeping in view the increasing number of applicants. Last year, about 50 lakh passports were issued all over India by the Central Passport Organisation compared to 22 lakh seven years ago, he said, adding this was expected to grow to over 80 lakh in 2010.

The External Affairs Minister said e-passports, in the official and diplomatic categories, would be issued soon and subsequently in the ordinary passport category by next year.

He said the Passport Seva Project had been initiated by the Ministry for introducing further simple application procedures and reducing paper work to the bare minimum with the view to maximise comfort levels of passport applicants and achieving the best international standards.

The project, which is expected to be implemented in a time-frame of 19 months, would result in issuance of passports within three days and also in the cases which require police verification. The project also envisaged the opening of 68 Passport Facilitation Centres all over the country.

Mr Mukherjee noted that the demand for passports was also growing in Uttarakhand which has 13 passport cells and 29 Speed Post Centres to collect passport applications.

''In 2007, the Passport office in Bareilly had issued over 27,000 passports to applicants from the 13 districts of Uttarakhand while in the first five months of this year, 11,000 passports have already been issued. By the years-end, it is likely to reach around 35,000'', he added.

The passport office would report directly to the MEA and start functioning with immediate effect.

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