Illegal passport agents continue to flourish; neither MEA nor TCS take note

How can illegal passport touts audaciously call themselves “online passport agents” and advertise brazenly on the Internet?

If you go to the passport website of the ministry of external affairs (MEA) and click on this link: http://passportindia.gov.in/AppOnlineProject/pdf/Public_Notice.pdf, you will see the public notice which reads: “Members of the public are advised to desist from dealing with touts / agents who may be charging exorbitantly for their service and further, may be making false promises about arranging assured urgent appointment or faster passport service delivery. After the launch of Passport Seva Kendras, the appointments are available to general public through the website. Alternatively, certain categories of applicants are allowed to walk in without appointment, details of which are available on the website.

 

“The Government has not authorised any intermediary/ representative to undertake such activity or to give such assurances. Such incidents of harassment/ influence by them may be reported to the concerned Passport Officer.”

 

If the public notice is in such uncertain terms, why is it that the website www.justdial.com is filled with contacts of “online passport agents” from various cities like Delhi, Chennai, Coimbatore, Kolkata, Jaipur, Mumbai, Pune and you can just go on and on. Why is it that the harassment of not getting online appointments by citizens across cities, due to an obvious nexus between passport agents and passport officials, which helps agents to probably ‘block’ appointments and deny it to the rightful applicant. Is not being tackled?

 

For further proof, some of the passport agents of Pune met Prakash Javadekar, Pune’s Rajya Sabha MP, who has taken up the issue for Pune, with the ministry of external affairs (MEA). They confessed that each one of them has access to a keyword/ codeword which helps them block two appointments per agent. Obviously, the number of passport agents seems to be large enough to ensure that individuals do not get their rightful chance. That the passport agent fraternity is having the alleged backing of the powers-that-be can be established by the fact that they continue to go about their business in brazen ways.

 

Moneylife which has been carrying a sustained campaign against the Pune passport mess had a comment on 3rd April (in the reader’s comment slot under an article), by a passport agent openly advertising that he charges Rs500 “for booking online slot in any of the PSK (Passport Seva Kendra)”.

 

Naresh Kevalramani, one of the readers of Moneylife wrote to JustDial on 22nd March, “It is very sad that when the Government of India has banned all agents/ middlemen for passport applications/ processing, your website is showing passport agents by the dozen. 

 

I think that your portal—JUSTDIAL—which is one of the leading service providers in India is doing an ILLEGAL ACT by promoting PASSPORT AGENTS whom the GOVT OF INDIA itself has banned. 

 

I have marked a copy of this mail to Ms Deshmukh who is heading Pune Passport Grievance Forum (PPGF).”

 

Anita Singh, customer service officer of JustDial replied:
 

“Thanks for writing to just-dial.com .


With respect to your below mail we appreciate your concern and for bringing it to the notice of just-dial.com. We shall look into the matter and do the needful. For any further queries, kindly contact customer service on 02261607080.

                         

You can also mail us on - [email protected].

Thanks and regards
Anita (CS) “

 

Well, sadly, JustDial’s reply seems to be a standard one for every such complaint, as no action has been taken as yet. Advertisements of “online passport agents” merrily flourish.

Comments
Rashi Kanojia
4 years ago
I agree with you guys.. Even i want govt to put them in jail
CA PRADEEP AGARWAL
9 years ago
Illegal touts are flouting every where whether PP office, RTO, DL office, PF office or you can say they are the bread and butter of these depts.
Narendra Wagle
9 years ago
My wife and I (age 78 and 69) reached Passport Seva Kendra at Malad (E) on 14 March at 9.15 am. The main gate was closed and people were gesticulating at the sentries. When they forcibly entered the compound (some including an elderly couple fell down hurting themselves),the police were called,two constables arrived, shrugged and disappered. It took 4 hours for my wife to pass through 3 counters (A to C), I couldn't since the staff went off for their "lunch hour'. So much for 'seva' at the PSK Mal(admiinistration).
ashwin bahl
9 years ago
step out in any city center inc small towns and yu can see AGENTS of all sorts, this tribe is not going anywhere in the very near future!
Bharat Sharma
9 years ago
The headline is misleading, implying that such activity leads to prosperity!

In an economy that dissociates wealth generation from value creation,

how can mere accumulation of wealth by 'illegal' passport agents help them flourish?

Mohammedchand
9 years ago
All the Members of Pune Passport Grievance Forum (PPGF)and the Moneylife readers and every one who wants to make passport Please Note :

Role of Travel Agents under the
Passport Save Projects.

An applicant who has difficulty in filling up/online filling up of passport application and status enquiry of application may seek assistance from Travel Agents in the new Passport Seva Project. However, such applicant has to come to the Passport Seva Kendra for submission of application, fingerprint and digitization of photograph requirements and the Travel agents will have no role in that process.

Written statement by The Ministry of External Affairs on 28 June, 2011
BEFORE THE MADURAI BENCH OF MADRAS HIGH COURT.
DATED: 28/06/2011
THE HONOURABLE
MR.JUSTICE B.RAJENDRAN
Writ Petition (MD)No.6264 of 2011. Filed by the Approved Travel Agents Welfare Association.


Vinita Deshmukh
Replied to Mohammedchand comment 9 years ago
Yesterday itself the Chief Passport Officer of India said that the travel agents lost 7 PILs filed by travel agents against online appointments which has made illegal entities for passports. Moreover, the website clearly states that every passport tout is an illegal entity and should not be encouraged. Besides, you are talking of ``filling'' up forms - that anyone can fill up - your cousin, mother, father, friend etc. I am sure you know I am talking about illegal blocking of online appointments by touts. That's where the biggest nexus and corruption is so please don't defend what you should not
Suryakant Chaubal
9 years ago
Instead of making them illegal or putting a ban on them the Government should issue licenses to the agents, fix up the charges and regulate their work. In my opinion they are giving a great service to the members of the society, particularly those who are not computer savvy, senior citizens, outstation persons who have no access to internet, etc.

My daughter tried to get an appointment for about a month. Everyday she used to be glued to her computer from 2:55 p.m. but couldn't succeed. Finally she gave up, contacted an agent who fixed up the appointment in just four days.

In Pune there is only one Passport office, which is located at one end of this city which is spread over a large area. If the Govt. really wants to help the citizens, there should be at least five offices located in east, west, south, north and central areas, so that there will be shorter queues and minimum waste of citizens' precious time. The Govt. charges Rs. 1500 as fee for issuing passport. If more than 600 persons apply everyday at Pune office, the Govt. collects revenue of almost a crore of Rupees every working day. We expect better service.
Ramesh Iyer
9 years ago
This explains why the online appointments get blocked within a minute after they open at 3 pm sharp. Surely, not so many people get online simultaneously, or even apply for passports (that too in these recessionary times !). Wish the MEA investigated this nexus and PSK-related issues, as it has made submitting applications more difficult than before the PSK-era.
MK Gupta
9 years ago
Congratulations for this great and bold article. Yes, it is really strange that, despite the so callerd denials by the GoI, SMSs and handbills galore, in addition to regular ads., inviting public to get the help of passport agents. Now, the question is:can this happen with impunity without the support of the insiders? Despite Passport Seva Kendras, the harassment and indignities suffered by the passport seekers are so much that it is easy to lure the unsuspecting general public to the agents who are clearly enjoying official support of sorts. The Police verification still remains a nightmare as the policeman who comes for this purpose just drops in without any prior intimation and leaves only with a hefty amount. And this is inevitable.
Dilshad Gogia
9 years ago
There has to be a nexus between the authorities and the agents, otherwise how is it possible that we citizens sit day after day trying to get an appoinment nd keep getting a negative response. I personally hve been trying at all hours of the day for the past week, only to get "Quota over" response. Surely there cannot be so many people aplying simultaneously that no appoinments are available for days together.

Dilshad Gogia
jaykayess
9 years ago
Why hold Just Dial responsible? You are attacking the symptom instead of the cause.

The real need is to weed out the root cause, viz., agent-babu nexus.

The second need is to lay down clear and transparent SLAs (service level agreements) for each stage of the process, i.e., stage A (pre-processing by TCS) and stages B & C 9final scrutiny and approval done by the concerned govt agencies of MEA/RPO). These SLAs must be BINDING, i.e., if the SLAs are not met, TCS and/or the govt agencies should be penalized monetarily, for example, the passport fee paid should be reimbursed at their cost.

Only the pain of penalty can provide the pleasure of performance.
Sucheta Dalal
Replied to jaykayess comment 9 years ago
Well, Just Dial has a more positive and correct response as a responsible organisation. So it is looking into the issue.
Having said that, the reason for mentioning Just Dial is obvious -- only when there is clear service opportunity, will service providers advertise it on Just Dial. And this goes against the claims of the Ministry of External Affairs and TCS.
The idea of e-filing was that one should be able to access it easily. Of course, personally, I think making everything electronic is a problem, because a big chunk of the population cannot keep up. many of the brightest people I know still dont know how to access the internet or do anything beyond sending and receiving emails. So, as I have said in my article India vs e-India, we have a growing divide. It will only encourage agents.
Ravindra
9 years ago
While I am no supporter of the Agents, with filling of application forms and appointments only online, there are bound to be service providers who will do that for the people who are not Computer savvy. Such people have no other option but to take help of such agents, unless the Dept itself provides these services themselves. For outstation persons time also becomes an important issue and this is where the Agents scare the people into taking their services.
Pushpendra Pandey
9 years ago
Madam it but obvious that those passport officer want agent to flourish to get the bribe through that channel.

They do not want transparency in the system because it will stop their greed for money and theft.

What can TCS do if this is attitude of these people.

diptiman chowdhury
9 years ago
this is absolutely true , in fact i myself tried for a month to book appointment @ kolkata PSK but was unlucky wherein my friend met one tout outside passport office he paid him 500 and his appointment was fixed the very next day ,and the tout clearly said he has nexus with passport officers not tcs employees and they have to share a lot of money with them to get the appointments , this is not the end to it , when police verification comes the second round of harassment starts , now police do not ask for your address proof but they need qualification certificates of your parents , please moneylife do something so that we the citizens do not get deprived of our rights.
Mahiti Adhikar Manch
9 years ago
Vinitaji,

This pertains to Mumbai

This is continuation of my earlier responses for your reports and meetings with TCS officls.

After marathon manoeuvring for getting the on-line appointments from 8th March got appointments 1st April and 2nd April for myself and for my daughter at PSK service at Lower parel. My got fed up by daily sitting like a begger in front of computor for online appointment at 3.00 pm, she did not take her appointment now remains pending.

Now the ordeal, when go in the morning 10.30 appointment they don't announce which the line is for which apointment when stand in scorching sun. Then they let you inside and inside there four lines that all probably know the time taken which is nothing less than 3 to 4 hrs.

So when you are say 11.15 appointment either youn take your launch box or be ready to pay for Burgers etc at cafeteria when there is lauch time from 1.30pm to 2.00 pm. And pay more than MRP for the soft drinks. I had to stop them charging more than MRP for Harvest drink which is Rs.20/ MRP was selling at Rs.30/- Also went to suggestion box there was no note available. TCS takes suggestions or service satisfaction form when you reach 2nd couter where your photo is taken but later on you have take out at least 1.5 hrs to 2.5 hrs for completing the process. TCS should take satisfaction form from the pass port applicants at the last stage, so youn actually give the satisfaction form before completion of process. THIS A CORPORATE STYLE, they have put Gandhijis statement about the Customer and misuse of statement by TCS. There is toilet facility kept with ramp to move up, the ramp lacks anti slippery so generally you have to be extra careful while going to toilet. Jai HO PPP.

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