E-passport to be rolled out in 2009: Pranab

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Coimbatore, Sep 14 (UNI) External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee today announced that his Ministry has drawn up a programme for the full roll out of e-passports in the ordinary passport category by September 2009.

Speaking after inaugurating the Regional Passport Office here, he said e-passports would be much safer against forgeries and it would facilitate easier movement of the people through the border points, equipped with e-passport reading facilities.

Stating that India was the first developing country to issue e-passports, he said he had already presented e-passports known as biometric passports to the President, Vice President and the Prime Minister during June this year.

With the inauguration of this new passport office, Tamil Nadu would have four offices, including Chennai, Tiruchirapalli and Madurai out of the total 37 offices in the entire country, he said adding that all all the 37 offices would be equipped with the latest information technology.

Last year, about six lakh passports were issued at the three offices of Tamil Nadu. The number of passport applications was about seven lakh this year in the state, he added.

He said the External Affairs department had issued 50 lakh passports in the country last year, compared to 22 lakh in 2000. It was expected to issue about 58 lakh passports this year and over 80 lakh passports in 2010.

Stating that his Ministry had taken a number of steps to simplify the passport issue system and to make it applicant friendly, Mr Mukherjee said electronic token system has been introduced in several passport offices to ensure orderly submission of applications. Facility of online registration of passport applications was now available in all passport offices in the country.

As many as 464 district passport cells had been set up all over the country enabling easier submission of applications and taking the passport issue system to the doorsteps of the applicants, he said and added in addition to these district passport cells there were 1095 speed post centres for submitting passport applications and 15 application collection centers .

The Minister said the government had already started to implement the Passport Seva Project with the objective of delivering passport related services to the citizens in a timely, transparent, more accessible and reliable manner. The project, expected to be implemented by the last quarter of 2009, would result in the issue of passports within three days.

'Tatkal' passports would be issued on the day of submission of the application and the Ministry proposed to have 68 passport facilitation centres all over the country where the non-sovereign functions, involved in the passport issue process, such as initial scrutiny of the application forms, acceptance of fee, scanning of documents, taking photos would be performed by the service provider, he added.

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