Moneylife Impact: TCS swings into action to ease some difficulties faced by Pune passport applicants

Exactly a week after activists meeting with TCS top brass, one seasoned verification officer has been appointed for at Counter A, the online appointment period is extended to one week and there are prominent display boards that provides list of documents required for a passport. One display also warns agents and touts against malpractices

The Pune passport campaign steered by Moneylife since the last four weeks received a fillip with action taken by the Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) to smoothen some of the pain points of passport applicants through several measures.
 

The appointment of a seasoned Verification Officer (VO) from 19th March, before Counter ‘A’, where documents are blindly scanned; extending the online appointment date to a week instead of a day; putting up boards to warn against illegal passport agents and the process of making prominent boards to list the documents required for various categories of passports are some of the positive and welcome steps taken by TCS.
 

Sucheta Dalal, managing editor of Moneylife, had initiated a meeting on 13th March, at the Moneylife Foundation office in Mumbai, with top brass of TCS. The Tata group company is in a public-private-partnership with the passport division of the ministry of external affairs (MEA). Discussions revolved around various problems faced by passport applicants in Pune, which were highlighted through a series of articles in Moneylife, since the last four weeks. The issues were comprehensively put forth by this writer, before senior most officials of TCS present there—Tanmoy Chakrabarty, VP and Head, Government Industry Solutions Unit; Rajesh Dogra, head, All India Operations, Passport Seva Project; Shalini Mathur, Project Director, Passport Seva Project; Pradipta Bagchi, Vice-President, Corporate Communications; and Harsha Ramachandra, Senior Manager, Corporate Communications.
 

Exactly a week later, on 19th March, Shalini Mathur, Project Director, TCS (Passport Seva Project), has informed Moneylife of action taken at the Passport Seva Kendra in Mundhwa, Pune and of the progress of the 11 crucial issues that were discussed at the meeting to ease the problems and harassment of passport applicants. Mathur stated that, “The MEA and TCS have been working together to bring out various improvements and ease the passport issuance process for Pune citizens.”
 

With six districts coming under the Pune Division, the TCS’s Passport Seva Kendra (PSK) receives around 30,000 applications every month, the number having grown by over 300% since the last eight years. Last year, 1.80 lakh passports were issued but for many of the passports received, there are experiences of harassment and difficulties faced by passport applicants, due to some glitches in the administration; menace of passport agents; failure to procure online appointments; and harassment of verification officers (VOs) in turning back applicants again and again quoting lack of submission of documents.
Hopefully, with the first round of pro-active steps taken by TCS, the near future seems bright for passport applicants. Pune’s model of improvement in governance could have a positive cascading effect for the 77 PSKs that dot different parts of the country. 
 

Following are the 11 pain points raised by Moneylife’s campaign during the 13th March meeting and action taken by TCS exactly in a week, on 17th March:
 

1. Moneylife: Having a pre-A Counter—so that authenticity of documents is verified before they are often blindly scanned by Counter ‘A’ run by TCS personnel. A couple of VOs (Verifying Officers) from MEA’s Passport Division at Pre-A Counter would alleviate the misery of passport applicants having to be shunted by Counter B to Counter A for lack of documents or wrongly scanned documents.
 

TCS: The RPO has positioned a verification officer from today in the pre-A counter for pre-scanning of documents.
 

2. Moneylife: Online appointments ought to be made easy and for more time/days—Most of the applicants do not get online appointments easily and have to go through the trauma of having to log in for several days, weeks or months while illegal passport agents give it to them in a day. Improve the online appointment system by increasing days and not just restricting it to one day. This ought to be done at the earliest.
 

TCS: Online appointments in the normal category are released for seven calendar days. For example, if appointments were released for the first time on 4 March 2013, they would be released and available for 5-6-7-8-11-12 (9th and 10th being holidays). Subsequently, on 5th, appointments would be released for 13th I.e. they would be available for 6-7-8-11-12-13. Next on 6th, appointments would be released for 14th and be available for 7-8-11-12-13-14. If in the meantime, appointments are booked for the intermediate dates as in Pune—it would seem as if appointments are released and available for only one day (the last day).So, even if appointments are released 30 days in advance, they may practically be available only for the last day. Also, based on experience, the longer the duration for which appointments are released, the greater is the absenteeism.
 

3. Moneylife: Banishing passport agents from the premises—While entry at the TCS’s Mundhwa office is strictly by appointment, illegal passport touts roam free. Agents and touts should be strictly banned and boards should be installed mentioning the same.

TCS: Multi-lingual boards as approved by the MEA have  been put up yesterday (16th March) at the PSK asking public not to deal with agents/touts as they may be making false promises related to appointments/quick processing of their applications and that none of them are authorised by the MEA.
 

4. Moneylife: Improving quality of TCS personnel—There have been several complaints of TCS personnel in Counter A, being very raw and lacking professional training. Enhancing the quality of TCS’s personnel so they are aware of what documents they are scanning and how they are doing so.
 

TCS: As per the circular from the MEA, TCS staff perform minimum checks on the documents. It is the prerogative of the government staff to satisfy themselves with respect to the documentation submitted and sometimes additional documents may be requested for, from the applicant. The placement of a Verification Officer in the pre-A counter should see a reduction in such instances.
 

5. Moneylife: Putting up public boards prominently, listing documents—Much of the misery of a passport applicant is when passport officials of the MEA keep rejecting his/her application for want of some document or the other. The applicant sometimes is sent back, three, four, or five times on pretext of demanding of some document or the other. Putting up public boards prominently near these counters and within the premises for various categories of documents would help in transparency. It would also curtail harassment by the passport officials sitting at the counter.
 

TCS: The information to be put up has been finalized and is under review by the MEA. Post go ahead, the boards will be put up after proper translation, design and fabrication. The process is likely to be completed by the month end.
 

6. Citizen charter, time frame for the passport process and attending to the passport applicant—Mr Sobti, with whom we had a meeting in Pune on March 14th stated that the Master Service Agreement contains details of timings of attending to an applicant—he talked about the 18 minutes, 24 minutes, 45 minutes time-frame in which to attend to the applicant for various enquiries. Also, we had suggested the time-frame for processing of the passport from the time he fills his online application to the time he receives it be put up and have prominent boards for this too
 

TCS: This is under preparation by the MEA.
 

7.  24x7 ‘effective’ grievance cell—We had broached the issue of TCS’s 24-hour helpline which is ineffective either because the calls are not answered or because the attendants simply say “our job is only to digitalise documents”. Make it effective, as per the MSA, in which citizen’s queries of his or her status would be addressed 24x7.
 

TCS: The 24x7 call centre is available on toll free number 1800-258-1800— to primarily provide information and status of passport applications. For grievances, applicants may followed the attached process or write to [email protected].
 

8. Moneylife: Improving citizen’s facilities in Mundhwa’s PSK office—Lack of toilets, drinking water, parking and proper seating arrangements leads to utter citizen discomfort, considering that hundreds of people visit the office every given day. This is due to six districts being under the Pune Passport Division. Provide the required facilities at the earliest.
 

TCS: The PSK is equipped with washrooms, drinking water, an-air-conditioned waiting lounge as well special faciliites for the physically challenged such as ramp/special washroom. For citizens in need, wheelchair facility is also available. For the convenience of citizens, a snack bar/counter has also been set up and there is also an ATM. With respect to facilities outside the PSK, an additional guard has been placed for regulating the flow of traffic and ease parking problems. The RPO would also be taking up the cause with the local municipal authority.
 

9.  MoneylifeUpgrading security measures at the Mundhwa PSK—Despite police security audit, security checks are lacking at the office. Do enhance them.
 

TCS: Two additional security guards have been deployed - one in the parking area as mentioned above and one at the entry.
 

10. Courtesy by the PSK staff—We had apprised TCS about the rudeness of the staff at the Mundhwa office. Do instruct staff as well as the security staff to deal with the public with courtesy.
 

TCS: Staff has been further sensitized on the subject .
 

11. Making the Master Service Agreement document, public: In this Public Private Partnership, TCS is public authority. Hence, MSA should be put in the public domain. TCS had mentioned that it was awaiting clearance from legal cell. So please keep us update on this.
 

TCS: The request needs to be put up through proper channels to the ministry.
 

Moneylife requests TCS and MEA to still work on:

  1. Putting up the Master Service Agreement in the public domain: Besides, requesting TCS and MEA to come to a positive conclusion and share with the citizens, the precise role and services, Moneylife is awaiting CIC’s (Central Information Commission) decision of  a complaint given by RTI (Right to Information) activist Vijay Kumbhar, against official secrecy on this count.
  2. Having an effective 24x7 grievance cell at the local level besides the online complaint service: Many of the passport applicants coming from the six districts of Pune are not necessarily internet-savvy. Hence, redressal of their complaints or queries regarding status of their passports should be addressed successfully and courteously through attendants of this 24x7 grievance cell.
  3. Beefing up security at the PSK through recommendations made by the police in their security audit report: Strangely, the joint police commissioner of Pune has taken a diluted stand on this but we are pursuing the matter with Pune Police Commissioner. We also request TCS to abide by the strictest norms voluntarily, considering the sensitive area in which the office is located.
  4. Requesting TCS to actively pursue with the PMC for citizen facilities—within its premises (where people wait before they are called inside) as regards toilet and benches for sitting.

 

Read related stories here: 

Inordinate delays at Pune Passport office; RTI applications rejected
TCS assures smooth passport delivery system
TCS refuses to share in public, Master Service Agreement with MEA for its passport venture; says it will consult its legal cell


(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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COMMENTS

Sucheta Dalal

4 years ago

Big News: Regional Passport Officers -
Mumbai & Thane, will answer your queries

Painless Passports: No Agents Needed!

Mr Tanmoy Chakrabarty, VP & Head of the Global Govt Industry Group at Tata Consultancy Services, will explain how passport issuance has been transformed, what you can expect in terms of service, speed and efficiency; and the next phase of the automation process which will track Indian workers abroad.

He will also talk about the e-migrate system that has been launched by the Govt to protect the interests of Indians going abroad for work.

Dr Swati Kulkarni, Regional Passport Officer - Mumbai.
IFS and MBBS, she worked as Consul General of India in South Africa before becoming Mumbai's RPO

Mr TD Sharma, Regional Passport Officer - Thane.

Come and have your queries answered on these and many other benefits of the e-migrate process and automation of passports.







December
12
Friday

Registration: 6pm

Session Time:
6:30pm – 8:30pm

Venue:
Indian Merchants
Chamber, Walchand
Hirachand hall (4th floor),
IMC Marg, Churchgate,
Mumbai - 400 020.


ADMISSION FREE
Registration is Mandatory!
RIGHT OF ADMISSION RESERVED

RSVP:
Jewel / Libertina at
022-49205000 or email us
at [email protected]

J Thomas

5 years ago

Well done Vinita Deshmukh. Well done Moneylife.

The online booking period should be extended to 30 days. To reduce abstenteism, a non-refundable online booking fee of Rs 100 may be introduced.

Sangeeta

5 years ago

Online appointments are the biggest reason for agents/ touts being engaged. In Thane, illiterate, uneducated people had the online appointment, while i was trying for weeks together, but found the window open only once for 2 minutes.

Smita

5 years ago

Hope something in the same lines will also materialize for Mumbai where the passport office clerical staff as well as the superintendent consider themselves Gods. Stating inadequacy of documents to judging that a license issued by non-mumbai/ non-Maharashtra as rejected they are known to harass hapless victims.

Inspite of police verification acceptance the passport is rejected stating police verification failure, to variety of other reasons for rejection of applications. Normal middle class Indian citizens are rejected passports while all the while terrorists and anti social elements still gain passports due to the palm greasing of passport officials by agents.

Suresh Ramasubramanian

5 years ago

I just applied for a passport for my son at the Passport Seva Kendra in Tambaram, Chennai.

It seems to be a huge contrast from the Pune office.

1. The building was fully air conditioned and had clean toilets and a baby changing room, as well as a store on the ground floor selling coffee / juice.

2. There was a pre A queue on the ground floor of the building, where documents were initially scrutinized and put into a brown paper folder, and a token was generated at another desk. We were then sent upstairs to the A/B/C counters. The process there was smooth and hassle free too, polite service and plenty of seating space compared to the old shastri bhavan RPO where there used to be serpentine queues all day long.

3. Appointments were just not available online so I suspect touts are doing the same thing as with IRCTC tickets - using automated software to script appointment booking. TCS needs to engage their web application security teams, as well as track appointment booking to neutralize fake IDs created by agents. Still, walk in facility was available for minors under 14 so that wasn't an issue for us.

CAG willing to resume audit of RIL’s spending on KG-D6 block

The CAG wanted the discretion for records to be requisitioned to vest with the government or its auditor and wanted the ministry to ensure that RIL provide access to all documents requisitioned

The Comptroller & Auditor General of India (CAG) clarified that it is not planning to do a performance audit of the Reliance but want to examine the ‘propriety’ of the expenses made on the KG-D6 gas block. The clarification follows the suspension of audit of the company’s spending on the prolific gas block on India’s east coast due to differences with RIL over the scope of the audit.

 

“While a performance audit is not envisaged, it is important that the audit of Block KG-DWN-98/3 (KG-D6) covers examination of all records and documents supporting costs, expenditures, expenses, receipts and income as mentioned in the PSC, including propriety of these expenditure, expenses, receipts and income,” the CAG wrote to oil ministry.

 

The CAG wanted the discretion for records to be requisitioned to vest with the government or its auditor (CAG) and wanted the ministry to ensure that RIL provide access to all documents requisitioned.

 

“The purpose of its audit was to ensure that “the Government’s financial interests have been safeguarded,” the CAG wrote on 12th March.

 

This follows oil ministry writing to CAG saying the official auditor was being requested to undertake the audit of KG-D6 for 2008-09 to 2011-12 under Section 20 of the C&AG (DPC) Act, 1971.

 

Stating that such audit should be a financial scrutiny, the ministry told CAG that the scope, extend and manner of the audit will be as spelt out in Article 25.5 and 25.6, read with Appendix C of the Production Sharing Contract (PSC) RIL had signed with the government for exploring and producing oil and gas from KG-D6 block.

 

These provisions of PSC provide for a government appointed auditor inspecting and auditing all records and documents supporting costs, expenditures, expenses, receipts and income.

 

It calls for verifying reasonableness of all charges and credits, which constitutes a pure financial audit.

 

CAG said it was in agreement with this scope of audit provided the ministry agreed with it on the issue of requisition of records and access.

 

The auditor said that its six-member audit team were at premises of RIL in Navi Mumbai from 9th January to 31st January during which they issued 40 requisition calling for information and records.

 

“However, as of 31st January, the contractor (RIL) had provided only a few records without formal replies stating that they were holding back replies till such time as the points of disagreement were resolved,” it said.

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SC bars Italian envoy from leaving India till further orders

The apex court had on 14th March asked the Italian ambassador not to leave the country without its permission, taking exception to his government’s refusal to send back the two marines, Massimiliano Lattore and Salvatore Girone

 
The Supreme Court on Monday extended till further orders its direction restraining Italian envoy Daniele Mancini from leaving the country after Italy reneged on its undertaking that the two marines accused of killing two fishermen off Kerala 
 
The apex court had on 14th March asked the Italian ambassador not to leave the country without its permission, taking exception to his government’s refusal to send back the two marines, Massimiliano Lattore and Salvatore Girone.
 
“Having heard senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi appearing for Italian Ambassador Daniele Mancini and the Republic of Italy, we direct to list the matter on 2 April 2013 for further orders.
 
“The interim order passed on 14th March directing Mancini not to leave India without the permission of this court is extended till further orders,” a bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir said.
 
The bench, also comprising justices AR Dave and Ranjana Prakash Desai, directed that “all authorities in the country shall take appropriate steps” relating to the order restraining Mancini from leaving India.
 
Before passing the order, the bench said the period of four weeks for which the marines were allowed to go to Italy to cast their vote was yet to be over and still they have time to return.
 
“We respected the undertaking (given by the ambassador) and we allowed them (marines) to go for four weeks which will end on 22nd March. There is still time for them to come. Strictly speaking they have not still violated our order. It is a case where one government is communicating to another government and we have nothing to do,” the bench observed.
 
The two marines were on board an Italian vessel “Enrica Lexie” when they allegedly shot dead two fishermen off the Kerala coast on 15th February, last year. Attorney general GE Vahanvati brought to the court’s notice the latest note verbale sent to the government by the Italian authorities in which it spoke about the issues concerning diplomatic relations contained in the Vienna Convention of 1961.
 
Vahanvati said it was intriguing that the note verbale mentions that no Indian authority will restrict the freedom of movement of the Italian Ambassador.
 
He said, “The ministry of external affairs is fully mindful of its international obligations.”  
 
After Rohatgi said he was appearing for Republic of Italy and the ambassador, the bench told him, “We are concerned with Daniele Mancini. What is your intention about Mr Daniele Mancini?  
 
“We are concerned with the intention. Are you going to comply with this order? We are not concerned with anything else,” the bench said.
 
After the order extending the 14th March direction was passed, Rohatgi again raised the issue of diplomatic immunity enjoyed by the Italian ambassador.
 
His submission anguished the bench which said, “We don’t go by anything. He has given the undertaking. We are not so naive.
 
“He has no immunity. What do you think of our judicial system,” the bench said and added that so many things are being written about the incident.
 
“You went to Italy after giving an undertaking. We never expected and we never believed that the Italian ambassador will renege like this,” the bench observed.
 
As Rohatgi pressed on the issue of immunity, the bench reminded him once again about the undertaking given by the Italian envoy.
 
“We don't accept his statement. We don't believe his statement. He has lost trust,” it said.
 
The court said, “The person who has come to this court as petitioner, we don’t think he has any immunity.”
 

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