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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