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The new online system for getting a passport is well thought out. The major beneficiaries are mainly educated and tech-savvy elite who constitute a very small portion of our population. A large number of our youth still depend on middlemen or touts for getting their passports
Here is good news for the tech-savvy elite of our country. Thanks to the external affairs ministry, the procedure for getting your passport has undergone a sea change for the better. Getting a passport rightfully due to you was a nightmare, with several hours of waiting just to get into the passport office to submit your papers with no certainty of your application being accepted. With touts hanging around to make a quick buck, one was virtually at the mercy of these unreliable wheeler-dealers, who even got forged passport/endorsements for a hefty fee from the gullible public. All this is a thing of the past, with entire machinery now geared up to give you a sleek and genuine passport with minimum of hassles.
New procedure for issue of passports1
“Passport Seva Project is a citizen-centric e-governance initiative introduced by the ministry of external affairs for improving passport service to the public” so says the website of the government. Under this plan, with 77 Passport Seva Kendras (PSKs) spread all over the country, applying for passports has been made online and the following procedures are made mandatory with effect from June 2012.
Steps to follow:
1: Visit the home page of website : www.passportindia.gov.in
2: Download the e-Form through the “Download e-Form” link on the home page.
3: Ensure that you have the latest version of Acrobat Reader (9 or above) on your computer to open and fill these forms. If you do not have this latest version of software, download this by clicking on the link provided on this page before downloading the e-form.
4: Fill the downloaded e-form and click “Validate & Save” button. This will generate an XML file in your computer, which is required later for uploading into the system.
5: Register through the Passport Seva Portal and create a User ID in your name. (Click on the ‘Register’ link under the Online Application Filing Section on the home page.)
6: While registering as stated in step 5, you will be required to mention your e-mail id, and you will be asked to confirm by clicking on the link on the activation e-mail which is supposed to have been sent to you. If you do not receive any e-mail, as it happens many times, due to which your login account does not get activated, you can again create a User ID but without mentioning your e-mail ID, which is not mandatory, and then log in to your account without any problem.
7: Login to the Passport Seva Portal with the user ID created as stated above.
8: Upload the XML file (generated in Step 4) through the ‘Upload e-form’ link. Do not upload the PDF form as only XML file is accepted by the system.
9: Click the “Manage Appointment” link on Applicant Home page and schedule an appointment at the Passport Seva Kendra preferred by you.
10: Click the “Print Application Receipt” link to print the application receipt containing “Application Reference Number” (ARN) and the details of the appointment scheduled for you.
11: Visit the Passport Seva Kendra (PSK) where appointment has been taken, with original documents, on the appointed day and time to complete all formalities for issue of the passport. This may take an hour to complete all procedures like taking your photograph, fingerprints, signature, etc.
Time taken to issue passports
Under the new dispensation, the system is organized in public-private partnership with Tata Consultancy Services. They check the demographic data, scan and upload supporting documents, take the applicant’s photographs and biometrics and accept application fees on behalf of the government. It is said that the sovereign and fiduciary functions of verification, granting and issuing of passports are handled by government officials. The entire process is online, including the interface with the police authorities for verification of personal particulars of applicants and with India Post for tracking delivery of passports.
Simple renewal of existing passport without any changes is done within about seven days, as the police verification is done subsequently. In all other cases it may take three to four weeks, as they are issued only after police verification and satisfactory feed back from the police department.
Only emergency/medical cases may visit PSKs without appointment, but it is left to the discretion of the Passport Officer to provide service without an appointment. Detailed instructions in respect of passport for minors, documents required, fees payable, etc are available on the website mentioned above.
How to make the system more user-friendly?
Though the new system is well thought out, the major beneficiaries are mainly educated and tech-savvy elite who constitute a very small portion of our population. A large number of youth of our country who aspire to go abroad, though literate, have neither access to computers nor the facility of internet to enable them to take advantage of this new system, and they continue to be dependent on middlemen or touts for uploading of applications and arranging appointments, etc, due to which, the chances of malpractices cannot be totally ruled out. Besides, the sheer number of applicants who apply for passports has increased manifold and it is very difficult to get an appointment through the website of the passport office, as all appointment slots get closed within a few minutes of commencement, causing disappointment even to the articulate web user. It is, therefore, necessary to supplement these steps with the following additional facilities for the convenience of a large number of our people, who still face problems to get their passports, which they are entitled to as a matter of right, being citizens of this country.
The aim of this newly introduced system as stated in the website of the ministry is “to deliver all passport-related services to the citizens in a timely, transparent, more accessible, reliable manner and in a comfortable environment through streamlined processes and committed, trained and motivated workforce”. This objective can be achieved only if a large number of Passport Seva Kendras are opened in many more cities and the facility of walk-in applications being made available in more number of District Passport Cells at least for next couple of years, till the broadband penetration increases considerably in our country.
To read other articles by the same writer, click here.
(The author is a banking and financial consultant. He writes for Moneylife under the pen-name ‘Gurpur’)