Moneylife Impact: Ministry of external affairs begins action on Pune Passport mess

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”.)

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COMMENTS

CA PRADEEP AGARWAL

4 years ago

But, besides what about the penalty clause if any on account of late allotments of PP's

Suniti Nanda

4 years ago

Thank you so much for the seamless effort in raising the concerns for citizens and finding a path till closure.

Fantastic job.

CA PRADEEP AGARWAL

4 years ago

MLF is doing a great job, no doubt about it, we should ask PP office to put up at site same day the PP's dispatched and those pending reasons for the same on site and those dispatched(receivings of the same) should invariably be written, so anybody can check, plus reasons for delay should be mentioned.

CA PRADEEP AGARWAL

4 years ago

IS THERE SOMEBODY TO CONTROL THE OUTRIGHT MONOPOLISTIC ATTITUDE OF GOVT. DEPTS AND SOME PRIVATE INVOLVED WITH IT.

Sachin Purohit

4 years ago

Kudos, Moneylife! I wonder if the mainstream media channels make even superficial attempts at bringing about this kind of changes. There are some novel things being tried by them like "Citizen Journalist", etc. But I am more convinced about the kind of activism on the part of MoneyLife than any of the others.

Having gone through this passport ordeal recently, I can say that the whole process has been created for simply harassing the applicants. It would be great if the process is streamlined.

Vinay Joshi

4 years ago

Ms.Vinita, Mr. Vijay Kumbhar & PPGF,

'Abhinandan'.

This deserves an exemplary a mention of your painstaking efforts. Pleased to know that timely services are committed by PSK & MEA can't be a sleeping giant.

Regards,

Ankur Sharma

4 years ago

Great work Moneylife!! :) Start something in NCR as well guys..needed very badly here as well..

MOHAN SIROYA

4 years ago

Kudos to the undieng zeal of Vinita Deshmukh and Moneylife team. Yes ,sincerity to get the results has to be aimed as the Target. Badhai Ho .

Chandrasekaran

4 years ago

good work moneylife

shailesh gandhi

4 years ago

Congratulations Vinita, Vijay Kumbhar and Moneylife.

Public Interest Exclusive
Karnataka government using invalid security certificate for online payment portal?

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.

 

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Get more dividends from cash-rich PSUs instead of forceful divestment

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

 
It is commonly known that there are ‘forced’ divestments of equity from public sector units (PSUs) simply to meet the fiscal targets of the government. Kotak Institutional Equities hence poses the question as to how to realise better value for public sector units. It suggests that the government (a) meet its divestment and fiscal targets for FY2014 through enhanced dividends from PSUs and (b) divest them later after improving their financials through a better policy framework.
 
The research firm adds that with the top 10 PSUs sitting on Rs1.4 trillion of net cash (as of 30 September 2012), the government can easily meet its fiscal targets without conducting ‘forced’ divestments.
 
The government should explore the option of higher dividends from cash-rich PSU companies. In particular, there is little logic for selling Coal India at depressed valuations when its stock price has come off due to the market’s expectation of an OFS (offer for sale) and coal pricing uncertainty. Coal India’s capex plan at Rs50 billion for FY2014BE is quite small relative to its humongous cash balance (Rs750 billion; end of FY2013E). More important, Coal India’s cash balance will keep on rising over the next few years despite its capex plans. Coal India can easily give Rs200 billion of dividends and dividend distribution tax (DDT) of Rs34 billion, with the government receiving Rs214 billion for its 90% holding.  
 
One of the reasons for the weak performance of PSUs over the past one to two months has been growing concerns about use of cash. The government intends to use the cash balance of the PSUs as a way to kick-start the capex cycle. PSUs seem to be investing sensibly based on their core plans. Dalal Street has fears of PSU companies being made to invest in non-core businesses; this is true for NMDC with concerns about it being forced to invest in downstream steel plants.
 
Kotak argues its case on better valuations for PSUs (where there are divestments) as: “We believe clarity on pricing of output of PSUs (coal, iron-ore and oil) will provide investors more comfort on the earnings of the PSUs. In some cases, it could also lead to a meaningful re-rating of multiples and divestment proceeds for the government. In the case of the oil sector, the government can provide clarity on the subsidy provisions for FY2013RE and FY2014BE, which may address the market’s concerns on the subsidy-sharing arrangement for FY2013. Similar, renewal of small periodic increases in diesel retail prices will restore the market’s confidence in the reforms process. We do not think the government can afford to give the wrong signals to overseas investors by temporarily suspending reforms due to political compulsions.”
 
Kotak feels that the oil and gas sector is a classic example. The government can raise prices of natural gas without any major impact on the critical fertilizer and power sectors. The government will recover around 90% of the increase in fertilizer subsidy arising from higher gas prices through higher income tax, dividends, DDT and royalty. The earnings of ONGC and OIL will increase meaningfully concurrently, allowing the government to divest stakes in them later at much higher prices. 
 

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