In your interest.
Online Personal Finance Magazine
No beating about the bush.
The initiative by the Pune Passport Grievance Forum has received overwhelming response from aggrieved citizens exposing the malfunctioning at the passport office. Since the story is the same throughout the country, let’s build up pressure by filing RTI applications
Our cell phones were constantly ringing yesterday after we announced a press conference that we would be holding the first citizens’ meeting on Saturday, 9th February in Pune, for those who have not received their passports in time. We have formed the “Pune Passport Grievance Forum” to address this issue. The issue is giving nightmares to citizens as their simple right to get passport in 45 days (three days, as promised by TCS—Tata Consultancy Services—but not delivered as yet) is being denied due to mismanagement of the passport office and alleged corruption.
The phone calls also came from cities like Delhi, Bangalore and Kolkata where it seems the situation is as bleak. Thus, it is a national issue which needs to be addressed by citizens and NGOs in large numbers, across cities. Let us use RTI (Right to Information) too to keep up the pressure. The ministry of external affairs and TCS, which is in a public private partnership (PPP) venture, must be made accountable to deliver passports in time and without citizens being harassed.
The first step of harassment is: While you have to apply online, the next step of taking an appointment schedule online is the biggest hurdle. Applicants said that they have to open the website for appointment at 3pm but have to wait for weeks or months on end to get the appointment and have been told that bribing could work.
States Rupam Tripathi, a young chartered accountant from Pune who is still waiting for her appointment schedule since December 2012, “I had filled up the online Passport Renewal Forms on the 15 December 2012 for my parents and myself. The next was to get the appointment to go the Passport Seva Kendra. The instructions are to log in at 3pm and take an online appointment. I have tried numerous times to take the appointment at 3 pm. At sharp 3pm I log in to the site, and click on the time slot. Till one comes to the time slot, its good speed, but once you click the time slot, the system buffers for about five minutes and then a message is received that all 650 appointments for the day are given, please try again tomorrow. I wrote to the passport helpdesk but they have sent me a standard reply of continuing to re-try. I am frustrated. I also spoke to couple of people who are in the travel business on how to go about getting an appointment; I was told that on payment of Rs500 the appointment can be obtained. I am not ready to give any bribe as I would like to have the passports through proper channel.’’
The standard reply given by the passport helpline desk to Rupam Tripathi is thus:
“Dear RUPAM TRIPATHI, Greetings! Please note that your request reference ID is 12201187xxxx and the description provided by you is: I have online made application for 3 renewals. ARN nos being 12 000345xxxx, 12 000346xxxx and 12 000346xxxx. I have been trying to take an appointment from the 15.12.2012 and every time I get the response slot not available. Trying the helpline no but cannot get through. Please advice on how to get an appointment. Thanks
Please find enclosed response in this regard as follows:
We request you to schedule a separate appointment for each applicant to visit the Passport Seva Kendra (PSK). Fresh appointments are released at 3 PM. Please refer to the News and Announcements section on home page of our website: www.passportindia.gov.in for availing information regarding schedule of appointments and Passport Seva Kendra (PSK) wise mapping of districts.
Please try again, recheck the availability of slots and schedule the appointment according to the availability of slots as appointments are limited and available on first cum first serve basis. We solicit your cooperation for the same. In case you are unable to schedule online appointment, you may contact the respective Regional Passport Office (RPO) along with the printout of your Application Reference Number (ARN) for appointment. RPO will consider such cases and will give staggered appointments keeping in view the load/capacity at the respective Passport Seva Kendra (PSK) under their jurisdiction. Tatkaal and other urgency applications will be given preference in allotting appointments. The information regarding the same is provided in the Advisory for Applicants available at the lower left corner of the website: www.passportindia.gov.in .
Please follow the below mentioned steps to schedule the online appointment as it is a mandatory process: i) Please visit our website www.passportindia.gov.in ii) Login with your User ID iii) On Applicant Home Page, select your Application Reference Number (ARN) iv) Click the Manage Appointment link. Option for scheduling the appointment is displayed v) Choose the appropriate time from the slots available for appointments vi) An Appointment ID is generated
This is to further inform you that password of the User ID created on our portal expires after every 60 days. This provision has been made keeping in view the security perspective. So, we request you to take print out of appointment details immediately after scheduling the appointment to avoid the inconvenience at a later stage. Please keep the print out of appointment details in safe custody till the date of appointment and carry the same along.”
Subsequent harassments: After the passport applicant gets his scheduled appointment and documents are verified, many a time he does not get his or her passport in the scheduled 45 days and is made to run from pillar to post, in this case from the TCS’ Passport Seva Kendra to the Regional Passport Office to the police office to find out the status of his passport. In such a case, it would help to file a RTI application.
The information you can ask regarding the status of your passport application can be made as follows (two samples are given, you can choose one that suits you best)
The APIO or PIO of your passport office (write his/her address)
Subject: Seeking information on my application for passport under RTI
1. Please provide the daily progress made on my application.
2. Please provide the names and designations of the officers who were supposed to take action on my application and who had not done so.
3. What is the stipulated time frame laid out for generating and delivering a passport?
4. What is the stipulated time frame laid out for replying to query/information sought by applicants?
5. As the status stands now, how much time more is required by the RPO to generate and deliver my passport?
6. What actions would be taken to ensure the above?
(The above sample is courtesy Vijay Kumbhar, a Pune based RTI activist who had taken up the passport campaign in 2007 and now.)
Kindly provide me with the following information requested under the purview of the Right to Information Act, 2005.
Regarding: Reasons for the Passport Delay
File Number: ____________ and Year _______
Place: xxx (Passport Office)
Particulars of information required: As per list mentioned below list of information requested
1. Daily progress made on my application till date of your reply.
2. Names, designations and office addresses of the officials with whom my application was lying during this period and date-wise period with each official and action taken by him/her.
3. Please give evidence of receipt and dispatch of my application in the offices of each of these officials.
4. Please inform me, according to your rules or citizens charter or any other order, number of days in which such a matter should have been dealt with and resolved. Please also provide a copy of these rules.
5. As the officials have not adhered to the time limit mentioned in rules and are guilty of violating these rules please give a copy of their conduct rules and details of action taken by the RPO against erring officials.
6. In case no action has been initiated for dereliction of duties against erring officials, the reasons be made known to me.
7. Please inform me name of the police station/dept to whom the application was referred for police verification with outward number, date of dispatch and date when reply was received by you. Photocopy of letter addressed to the police for verification and proof of mailing be submitted to me.
8. Please let me know when I am likely to receive my passport.
9. Please inform me days taken by your office in issuing/renewing passports in the last 25 applications excluding days required for police verification.
10. Please inform me number of complaints for delay in issuing/renewing passports was received against your office in last one year or last financial year.
Please inform me name of the police station/dept to which application was referred for police verification with outward number, date of dispatch and date when reply was received by you. Photocopy of letter addressed to police for verification and proof of mailing be submitted to me.
Find the application fee for the request attached with this application. If you feel that above requested information does not pertain to your department then please follow the provisions of Section 6(3) of the RTI Act, 2005/Also as per the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005 please provide the details (Name and Designation) of the First Appellate Authority w.r.t to your department with the reply to the above request., where I may if required file my first appeal.
I do hereby declare that I am a citizen of India. Kindly provide me with the information at the address/email id mentioned with the application. I request you to ensure that the information is provided before the expiry of the 30-day period after you have received the application.
(Name of applicant)
Address of Applicant, Other Contact Details
(The above sample has been taken from www.rtination.com which has been proactive in helping citizen file RTI applications. http://www.rtination.com/rti-applications/18-passport/3829-delay-in-passport-issue)
(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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Finance ministry says appointing a nodal officer at the ministry level would increase work load. However activists feel this would help RTI applicants as many a times, their applications are shuttled between various departments within the same ministry to avoid responsibility of responding under the RTI Act
The Union ministry of finance (MoF) has filed a petition before the Delhi High Court challenging the decision given by the Central Information Commission (CIC) for appointing a Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) at the ministry level.
The ministry said it has five departments, Department of Economic Affairs, Department of Revenue, Department of Expenditure, Department of Financial Services and Department of Disinvestment. Each department is headed by a separate secretary and the senior-most among the secretaries is also referred to as the finance secretary.
“...the current system is such that the departments have a nodal officer for Right to Information (RTI) matters. Each department has appointed various CPIOs as per work allocation in pursuance of Section 5(1) of the RTI Act, 2005. Any RTI receipt which is received in the office of the nodal office is subsequently marked to respective CPIO of the department for replying to the RTI application. This system is efficient as the query can be sent to the CPIO of the department to which it pertains so that it can be answered adequately and all the information can be effectively given,” the ministry said in the petition.
It said, “...in case a CPIO is appointed for the MoF as such, all the RTI applications of all the departments of the MoF would then come to one point and would be practically inexpedient to the concerned designated CPIO to handle all the RTI applications on all the subject matters allocated by the MoF. The difficulties that would arise inter alia are that the concerned CPIO would not be aware of all the subject matters which come under the jurisdiction of the MoF, the concerned CPIO would anyway have to consult the officers of the department to which the query pertains for information in order to address the query effectively and this would be a time-consuming process that would render the mechanism of getting prompt responses as envisaged under the act infructuous”.
According to Subhash Chandra Agrawal, on whose application the CIC had given the original decision, at a time when different departments of various ministries are themselves confused about subjects dealt by various departments, sais it is very difficult for members of the public about subjects dealt by different departments of a ministry necessitating appointing a nodal CPIO each in all ministries. “It is observed that many a time RTI petitions are shuttled between different departments of the same ministry in a bid to avoid responsibility for responding to RTI petitions,” he added.
Chief Information Commissioner Satyananda Mishra in an order issued on 7 September 2012, had said, "We have something called a ministry of finance with a finance secretary in position. Therefore, it is rather odd that the ministry does not itself have a CPIO. Even if it is admitted that the ministry operates through various departments under it, the ministry itself is in existence as a public authority and, therefore, it needs to have a CPIO. Therefore, we direct the CPIO of the Economic Affairs to place this order before the finance secretary who shall cause to be appointed within one month of receiving this order a CPIO for the ministry or nominate one of the existing CPIOs to act as the CPIO for the finance ministry also."
The finance ministry, however, said that the order passed by the CIC is contrary to the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules. “The finding of the CIC to the effect that there is a ministry of finance is founded on erroneous understanding that the ministry is a body independent of the five departments that come within it,” it said.
Requesting the high court to quash the order passed by the CIC, the MoF also pointed out that the order of CIC can have ramifications for other ministries as well since the overall structure of a ministry being comprised/divided into various departments in terms of work, is followed in most ministries under the Government of India.
However, Mr Agrawal feels the argument of increase in work-load by MoF is not true. “Rather appointing a nodal CPIO in all ministries will largely reduce work-load by avoiding misuse of section 6(3) of RTI Act for transferring petitions to each-other department in the same ministry. The MoF, in larger public interest should withdraw its petition,” he said.