In a notification issued on 30 May 2014, the Ministry of External Affairs-MEA cautions citizens not to fall for fraudulent agents as Passport Offices are the only recognised channels to apply for passport
In order to do away with the 'Agent Raj' for passport applications, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has issued a stern public notice on May 30 2014, stating that: “There is no system in place to ‘recognise/ authorise’ any individual or any travel agency in this regard in the country.”
Since March 2013, Moneylife has been campaigning for citizen-friendly system for passport applicants considering that Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) is in public-private-partnership (PPP) with the Passport Division of MEA to bring reforms through technology. Moneylife had also highlighted how passport agents are in an alleged nexus with authorities, as they provide appointments and passports much quicker as compared to an applicant who directly applies for his passport.
In a never before public notice that is definite in its appeal, states: “It has come to the Ministry’s notice that some private portals/ individuals have been claiming that they are ‘recognised / authorised’ by the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, to extend passport assistance to the public.”
“The Ministry hereby makes it clear that the passport portal (www.passportindia.gov.in) is the only Government portal offering passport services to citizens within India. The portal is web-based and can be accessed by anyone, anytime, anywhere for seeking passport services. There is no system in place to ‘recognise/authorise’ any individual or any travel agency in this regard in the country. Any one dealing with such fraudulent portals/ advertisers/ claimants, will do so at his/ her own risk and consequence.”
Besides, the website www.passportindia.gov.in is also running a header stating that those applicants who are not internet savvy, can avail of the Citizen Service Centres for filling and uploading passport application forms and scheduling appointments for a nominal fee of Rs100.
This warning by the MEA is indeed a welcome move and will help in ending the menace of passport agents which have been charging applicants Rs2,000 or more. Agents have also been creating hurdles for passport applicants seeking to use the right route. However, it remains to be seen whether Citizen Service Centres are indeed applicant-friendly. While Moneylife will track this issue, we request readers to give us feedback on Citizen Service Centres and any other experiences they had/ have at passport offices.
(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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