Hurry! Convert your old passport into a machine-readable one

From 25 November 2015, only machine-readable passports (MRPs) would be allowed adhering to the ICAO guidelines. Therefore, if you hold a passport issued before 2001, it is time to get it converted into an MRP one


The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has set 24 November 2015 as the global deadline for phasing out all passports that cannot be read by machine (machine-readable passports -MRPs). Although since 2001, India, as a member of ICAO, has been issuing machine-readable passports, there are several people who hold passports issued before that. The government has asked such people to convert their passports into machine-readable one.

“If any Indian citizen irrespective of their residence status holds a handwritten passport or has a 20 year validity passport which extends beyond 24 November 2015, then she should immediately apply for re-issuance of a MRP-compliant passport to avoid any immigration/ emigration hassles in the future. The processing time of these passports hardly takes two-three weeks,” the Ministry of External Affairs said in a release.

MRP is a machine-readable travel document conforming to the specifications contained in Doc 9303, Part 1 where the data on the identity page is encoded in optical character recognition (OCR) format. According to the ICAO, a non-MRP includes handwritten passports as well as those that have no machine-readable zone (MRZ) or includes another family member’s name in addition to the name of the passport holder.

ICAO, created in 1944 is a specialised agency of the United Nations, which serves as the forum for cooperation in all fields of civil aviation among its 191-member states.


According to the ICAO, having a MRP-compliant passport system would improve immigration management and assist in the fight against illegal immigration, terrorism and trafficking in person.

In order to ensure MRP-compliance, the fee structure and decisions involving short validity passports (SVP) have been reviewed by the Consular at the Passport and Visa (CPV) Division of the Ministry of External Affairs.

Issuance of a Short Validity Passport (SVP) having validity from zero to five years, for which a fee of Rs1,000 under the normal category and Rs3,000 under the tatkal category is charged. For passports having validity of more than five years but less than 10 years (validity of normal passport), the fees prescribed for a normal validity passport will be levied. Moreover, the extension of SVPs by manual endorsements will be stopped requiring issuance of fresh booklets thereby encouraging the practice of MRP passports.

A SVP passport is usually issued in cases of urgency such as on production of an admission letter to a student for an international exam, non-delivery of passport to the applicants due to loss, for Indians residing abroad and visiting India for a short period on production of necessary identification documents, proof of travel for a maximum period of one year and to applicants who may have a criminal case pending in any court, subject to a written permission granted by the court.

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    SC tells BCCI to let Cricket remain a gentleman’s game

    The Supreme Court told BCCI that cricket must be played in its true spirit and should remain a gentleman’s game


    The Supreme Court on Monday warned the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) against 'killing the game of cricket' saying it must be played in its true spirit and should remain a gentleman's game. The apex court was hearing the spot-fixing case related with the Indian Premier league (IPL).


    "If you allow these things to happen, then you are killing the game of cricket,'' it said, while referring to IPL spot-fixing scandal.


    "We take the findings of Justice Mudgal Committee’s report as gospel truth,'' it said.


    While questioning the return of N Srinivasan as the chief of BCCI, the Supreme Court said, “Can’t make a distinction between BCCI and IPL. IPL is a by-product of BCCI.”


    “Some people who are in BCCI now own a team. It has become a mutual benefit society. Ownership of team raises conflict of interest. BCCI chief has to run the show but you have a team, which raises questions. Can BCCI president own a team? How far is this fair?” it added.


    Commenting on Srinivasan, the apex court said, "You will have to address question of conflict of interest as head of BCCI and also as owner of IPL team, whose official is found to be involved in betting''.


    BCCI, however, dismissed any conflict of interest.

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    Power theft: Why we need to introduce tamper-proof electricity connections

    Efforts are being made to tackle power theft which is rampant. There is a need for the introduction of stricter and heavier punishments for corrupt officials who turn a blind eye to such activities


    The Power Ministry is now on a war path to increase the generation of power. Ambitious plans are afoot to ensure greater coal production and to make it possible for speedy movement of coal from pitheads to centres of production.


    At the same time, efforts are being made to tackle power theft which is rampant. In some states this is said to be as much as 40%.


    The government plans to roll out meters on distribution transformers, feeders and consumers in urban areas and the Cabinet has approved the upgrading of old distribution networks, estimated to cost as much as Rs25,300 crore to tackle the rampant theft. This will take several years to complete.


    The illegal users, who steal power, with impunity, can do so only with the connivance of crooked electricians and some officials in the electricity distribution companies. These people consider "free power" as their birth right and privilege due to poor policing. This is a big problem mainly due to corrupt officials who turn a blind eye to such activities.


    Drawing of power from live overhead lines is a "child's game" and the dangling, loose wires on the roadside are a sore sight. There is no way a law abiding citizen knows if anyone in his own locality is actually drawing "free" power by plugging into the electricity connection junction boxes. This is because these are NOT tamper proof!


    Take the case of Karnataka Slum Clearance Board (KSCB). They had completed 1,000 dwelling units in April 2013 and had allowed 900 allottees to "move" in. Almost from day one, these "residents" had been "enjoying" electricity supply! Everyone knows how long it takes to get the connection done and meter installed before the "power" is activated!


    The Vigilance Squad officials raided, presumably on a tip off, and found that the residents had not only moved in much earlier to occupy the premises but were also drawing power from a live wire for the previous one and a half years, when the "work" was in "progress"!


    Bescom, Bangalore Electricity Company has estimated the theft to be 3,000 kW per month causing a loss of Rs50 lakh, and the total loss is said to be over Rs5 crore during this period!


    Arifulla Khan, Assistant Executive Engineer, Bescom, who unearthed the theft has estimated that between 2,600 kW and 3,000 kW of power has been illegally drawn every month and all these residents who were "enjoying" power had no "meters" installed and the area was at a stage of "sanction" and "execution of transformers", when this matter was uncovered by him.


    Further investigations have revealed that the power was being drawn from a live power line that supplied electricity to another layout in JP Nagar. The thieves had used loose wires and cables to carry out this illegal operation. Press reports indicate that the KSCB officials are culpable and the assistant executive engineer, executive engineer and others responsible for the theft". Full investigations are in process.


    Section 135 of the Electricity Act, covering illegal tapping, theft and usage of electricity has detailed rules relating to the action that can be taken against such miscreants. From a meagre fine, imprisonment for repeat offender goes to a maximum of 5 years. If this is not a deterrent, it would be good idea to review the rules.


    If the Prime Minister is serious to give uninterrupted power supply to the whole country he must ensure that this illegal tapping must be stopped. Hooking on to a live wire and drawing of power through easily openable junction/connection boxes should be prevented by installing tamper-proof meters and introduction of advanced software that can alert sudden increase in power consumption in registered areas where meters have been installed. All the "poojas" and "pandals" where religious function and even marriage functions take place, power is found to be drawn from "live" power lines in the area.


    Vigilance Squads must be more vigilant in stopping this illegal practice.


    (AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)

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