New Delhi, Oct 13: Outsourcing its passport services to the private sector, the External Affairs Ministry today signed an agreement with the TATA Consultancy Services (TCS) for streamlining the Passport delivery system to make it more secure and transparent and reduce the delivery time to three days.
This is the first time that the government has signed an agreement with the private sector for making the passport services more efficient.
The scheme which will be applicable from March next year, involves opening of 77 more Passport Sewa Kendras (PSKs) throughout the country and providing additional counters at existing PSKs.
Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon, who was present at the signing ceremony, said with India's increasing engagement with the rest of the world in various areas including economy, there was a need to accelerate the passport delivery system.
He said there had been a rapid growth in passport demand and the number of passports issued had gone up by 2.2 times from 1997-2007.
Last year alone about five million passports were issued and the future expected growth was about 18 per cent per annum with demand for passports reaching more than one crore by 2011.
In view of the fast growing demand and meet the phenomenal increase in the number of passports, the need for public-private partnership was felt.
''We decided, we needed a quantum improvement...,'' the Foreign Secretary said.
The new schemes, which is the culminaton of a two-year process (of discussions), ''started as a project but is now a programme,'' he said.