'Passport Seva Project will simplify procedures'

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Amritsar, Jun 28: The Ministry of External Affairs has already initiated the Passport Seva Project(PSP) for introducing better and latest IT solutions, further simplification of procedures and reducing paper work to the barest minimum, with a view to maximising the comfort levels of passport applicants and achieving the best international standards.

The project is expected to be implemented in a time frame of 19 months and will result in passports being issued within three days and in cases which require police verification, within three days after the completion of the verification process, External Aaffairs minister Parnab Mukherjee said while addressing a public function after inaugurating the Reginal Passport Office (RPO) here today.

Mr Mukherjee said that 'tatkal' passports will be issued on the day of submission of the application. The Passport Seva Project envisages opening of 68 Passport Facilitation Centres all over the country, where the non-sovereign functions, involved in the passport issuance process, will be performed by a service provider to be selected through an open bidding process, he added.

Police verification will be expedited through electronic linkage of the Passport Facilitation Centres with the police authorities in State Capitals, he added. This centre would also start issuing e-passports, also known as biometric passports, in the diplomatic category, he added.

The Minister announced that issuing of e-passports in the official passport category will also commence soon. The Ministry of External Affairs has drawn up a programme for the full roll out of e-passports in the ordinary passport category by September next year.

" The e-passports will be much safer against forgeries and will facilitate their movement through the border points equipped with e-passport reading facilities", he said while pointing out that with the launch of e-passports in New Delhi on June 25, India had become the first major developing country to issue such passports.

Mr Mukherjee said that about 50 lakh passports were issued last year all over India by the Central Passport Organisation, compared to 22 lakhs, seven years ago. The total demand for passport is expected to grow to over 80 lakhs in 2010, he added. The Minister said that while the Amritsar Passport Office will greatly facilitate employment opportunities abroad for people in the region, it was important not to lose sight of the fact that there are a number of unscrupulous agents who exploit innocent people by giving false hopes of lucrative employment abroad. He assured the Punjab Government of his cooperation curb such illegal activities.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal who was also present expressed the hope that the Centre would persuade other countries particularly Pakistan, Afganistan, Iran, the Middle East and West Asian countries and other western nations to open visa centres here.

This he said, has become necessary in view of the high volume of traffic to these countries from the belt which the Amritsar Passport Office will cater to.

He said that the opening of the new Passport Office would fulfill the aspiration of the people in the districts of Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Gurdaspur, Faridkot, Ferozepur and Muktsar in having an exclusive passport facility of their own.

The Passport Office here is equipped with the latest IT technology including the facility to issue a computer-generated receipt to the applicants on submission of an application. The receipt will facilitate tracking of the status of the application on the internet.

During 2007, the Regional Passport Office in Chandigarh and the Passport Office in Jalandhar together issued over 3,50,000 passports to applicants from Punjab. In the first five months of this year, about 35,000 passports have already been issued to the people of the six districts that will be covered by the Amritsar Passport Office.

To cope with the annual demand of nearly 1.5 to 2 lakh passsports, the Amritsar Office will also have, attached to it, six District Passport Cells and nine Speed Post Centres that would collect passport applications.

UNI

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