On Tuesday, Moneylife ran a story on how touts are making a fast buck through Tatkal online appointments for passports. Within 24 hours a VP of TCS, which is in PPP with the government’s Passport Division, promises to address the issue
The story on how passport agents in Pune are indulging in mass grabbing of Tatkal online appointments resulting in the passport applicant unable to get his appointment online for days on end was published in Moneylife on Tuesday.
In less than 24 hours, the story has had a great impact with Tanmoy Chakroborty, vice president & head for government industry solutions unit (ISU) at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), which is in public-private-partnership (PPP) with Passport Division of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). He assured Moneylife that he would investigate into the matter with immediate effect by investigating into the volume flow and peaks, which can be monitored through the computers of the Passport Seva Kendra (PSK).
In an email sent to this writer, Chakroborty stated, “We will certainly work with RPO Pune and the MEA to analyse all that you have mentioned and to look at the pain points of Applicants in Pune.”
“We always take feedback from any one seriously and we will once again look at the patterns of volume flow and peaks and troughs in Pune in conjunction with MEA and revert with the steps if any that will be taken to further make it a pleasing experience - the application for a passport,” he added.
Chakroborty stated that ever since TCS has begun using technology to make the passport applicant’s experience smooth-sailing, many passport agents are out of business and are pursuing other means of livelihood. He says, “Passport Agents perhaps is passé as the system deployed offers total transparency and I understand the such passport agents, who used to operate in the past-- prior to our system being deployed--- are rapidly looking for alternate employment as there is nothing left for them in the passport application process in India!”
He also mentioned in his email that ever since TCS has entered the scenario, it has successfully served over 1.2 crore applicants, all over India. Adding that he would look into the Tatkal appointment scam in Pune seriously, he wrote, “Since we have introduced the payment over the portal system the wait time in almost all the PSKs has disappeared which means that more bonafide applicants are getting appointments within a reasonable period of time .’’
Chakroborty sent the email in response to the writer’s mail after the story was published in Moneylife on Tuesday. The email stated, “Thanks to your persistent efforts, most of the problems that passport applicants used to face before our campaign in March 2013 have been eased, as they have been addressed by you very effectively. However, since the last couple of months, online appointments for Tatkal passport have become a big issue as most of the applicants do not get their online appointment for several weeks. This has nullified the value of procuring Tatkal passport which is to be issued between 1 and 7 days.
The story in Moneylife gives an insight of what the applicant goes through when he tries to get the appointment. Would be very grateful if you could check where the loophole is and how is it that a passport agent can give Tatkal appointment in 24 hours whereas a citizen going by the legal way cannot get it for weeks on end. Looking forward to hearing from you on this issue.”
(Vinita Deshmukh is 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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