While the MEA has solved several pending passport cases forwarded by Moneylife, in a week’s time it is sending its team to Pune to comprehensively assess and work towards a speedy workable solution
Taking cognizance of Moneylife’s persistent campaign of the Pune Passport mess and forwarding of complaints to the Regional Passport Office, Pune, the ministry of external affairs is sending its team in a few days time, to physically assess and inspect the Passport Seva Kendra and work towards a speedy solution.
BJP leader and Rajya Sabha member from Pune, Prakash Javadekar, on Sunday, stated that making online appointments easier by releasing more appointments and allowing the applicant to choose from 15 days time; streamlining police verification which includes stopping the ridiculous method of the applicant being asked to visit the police station instead of vice versa and; establishing a counseling cell at the Passport Seva Kendra and Regional Passport Office to help applicants who are in doubt are the prime measures that he will address. Towards this goal, the team from ministry of external affairs (MEA) will soon come to Pune for inspection and speedy solution strategy.
In the meanwhile, the complaints forwarded by Moneylife to the Regional Passport Officer have been addressed by AK Sobti, Director, Passport Seva Project, MEA.
Recently, Mr Sobti had personally visited Pune after Moneylife’s series of articles created uproar amongst citizens. He invited activists who are fighting for this campaign to understand the problem. In order to make things easier for the harassed passport applicant, Mr Sobti stated that “a formula of online pre-payment at the time of filling the application form would bring in transparency and minimize the illegal activities of passport agents. This would be activated within two months.” He did not portray any apprehension about difficulties that citizens who are not net-savvy would face.
Regarding the overload at the Pune Passport office due to the six districts it handles, Mr Sobti stated, “we have received requests from MLAs and MPs to start Mini Passport Seva Kendras in 50 odd places in the country including Maharashtra. The National Informatics Centre (NIC) had taken up the study and has given its recommendations. It is in an advanced stage of implementation. We will also activate 60,000 Citizen Facilitation Centres of the country to become hubs for accepting passport applications.” He also promised to look into the police verification aspect which is taking a long time. To this effect, he said that online verification will soon become active and this will reduce the time period for getting a passport.
In the meanwhile, Pune Police Commissioner Gulabrao Pol has questioned the figures given by TCS which had stated that over 30,000 police verifications are pending with the police. Mr Pol has stated that after asking for data from all the police stations and chowkies, the pending figure is only 1,500. It is the inefficiency of the TCS employees recruited at the Regional Passport Office who do not upload the verified documents in time that is leading to delays.
(Vinita Deshmukh is the consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)
Some of the government websites used for collecting online payments from citizens do not have a proper security certificate verified by a trusted third party. Yet, it asks for an undertaking that would hold the user responsible for any misuse of the portal!
Following recurring incidents of Indian government websites being hacked, a security certificate (based on SSL or Secure Socket Layer protocol) has been made compulsory for all the new websites being created and for strengthening the existing ones. However, several sites, especially those used by central and state governments for online payments are still using ‘untrusted’ security certificates.
While the government, especially the finance ministry and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) are seen trying to boost online payment methods across the country, some of the government portals are not secure enough. This poses additional risk to citizens who want to pay their taxes or any fees for government services through online payment systems.
For example, the Commercial Taxes Department of the Karnataka government collects online payment for value added tax (VAT) through its portal, www.vat.kar.nic.in. However, when one clicks on the e-payment link, it immediately shows an error in the site's SSL. Here is error, displayed in most browsers...
While, all browsers have a built-in list of trusted certificate providers, for some sites, the certificate provider may not be on its list. In this case, the browser will warn you that the Certificate Authority (CA) which issued the certificate is not trusted. This issue can also occur if the site has a self-signed certificate.
When you connect to a secure website, the server hosting that site presents your browser with something called a ‘certificate’ to verify its identity. This certificate contains identity information, such as the address of the website, which is verified by a third party that your computer trusts. By checking that the address in the certificate matches the address of the website, it is possible to verify if you are securely communicating with the website you intended, and not a third party (such as an attacker on your network).
In the case of www.vat.kar.nic.in, the certificate is not been verified by a third party that the computer trusts. Anyone can create a certificate claiming to be whatever website they choose, which is why a trusted third party must verify it. Without that verification, the identity information in the certificate is meaningless. “It is therefore not possible to verify that you are communicating with www.vat.kar.nic.in instead of an attacker who generated his own certificate claiming to be vat.kar.nic.in. You should not proceed past this point," the message says.
Surprisingly, while the Karnataka government’s portal does not have a SSL verified by a trusted third party, it puts the onus of everything on the user. A dealer using the site has to give an undertaking and accept responsibility and accountability for any information, returns and statutory forms uploaded or downloaded using his/her password. In addition, in case the password falls in the hands of unauthorised person/s, the dealer would be held responsible for liabilities arising from misuse of the password as well.
In addition, the VAT portal of the Karnataka government expects citizens to call on their telephones for any issue. The portal does not have any email ID mentioned for accepting and resolving grievances from users.
With the top 10 PSUs sitting on a net cash of Rs1.4 trillion, Kotak Institutional Equities believes that the government can easily meet its fiscal targets without conducting ‘forced’ divestments