Passport and travel agents are illegal, says MEA

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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    COMMENTS

    Radhakrishnan Subbiah

    6 years ago

    From where did all these corrupt officials and politicians come from.... from within the society... so logically the society itself has become corrupt. I am not sure if this society can change from within. Historically , all over the world, we can see examples after examples of how each society reached its golden period, way back in centuries , if not millineums and then the slow deterioration leading to total annihilation... leaving only archeological traces.Based on this historical fact, I feel that is what is happening to the Indian Society..deterioration started just before the British rule ...thereafter it is marching faster to its annihilation. A better society can emerge only with a clean slate.

    deepaksb

    6 years ago

    How can passport dept.(MEA) can be differentiated from Customs,excise,sales tax,Income Tax , Railways,RTO(Police),Municipal Corporations etc.???

    Root cause of all problems is rampart corruption flourished in this country before and after independence.

    Till govt.officials are paid tax free cash income by these so called agents/touts ,there appears to be NO solution to these problems.

    Something concrete must be done by this new government and citizens must also co-operate.

    Radhakrishnan Subbiah

    6 years ago

    It is crystal clear that MEA is totally out of touch with reality. As usual these------ live in their own ivory towers.
    Their statement that the collusion between the agents & the authorities has been recently brought to their notice.... is 2million times a black and white LIE.
    It was my own experience , more than a year ago, as a believing citizen went online , registered and tried to get an appointment for over two weeks, everyday, with total failure. Then, as per my "knowing friend's advice" aproached an agent, lo, within a day I got the appointment ???. So whom do you believe and appreciate for this service, the MEA and Passport Authorities or the agents ??
    What should we do with these useless authorities? Pray that these villains are wiped-out lock -stock and barrel by a 'hero'.??!!

    Pallavi Sen

    6 years ago

    I have been trying to schedule passport appointment in PSK Ghaziabad for last one week but unable to do so as appointment status is always unavailbale. No where does one go? Clearly touts working

    Legislation is not the only tool to tackle all issues: Dr Debroy

    Normal reaction of any MP or MLA to a problem, even if economic, is generally that it would be resolved through a legislation. However, whether the legislation can be enforced or not is never analysed, says Dr Bibek Debroy

    Our laws range from retrograde to obsolete and almost always complex. But, what really are the reasons behind this stagnation? What does it take to get rid of ancient and often expendable laws? For any problem, even if it is economic, most of the members of Parliament (MPs) and members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) will tell you that it would be resolved through a legislation. Whether the legislation can be enforced or not is never analysed by them. As a result, we have a bunch of legislations that have never even been used.  

    Dr Bibek Debroy, an eminent economist, scholar and columnist answered these and other important questions in an informative session organised by Moneylife in Mumbai. Let's take a look at what he had to say.

    In the year 2000-2001, the movement for law reform intensified. What were the challenges and achievements?

    Dr Debroy said that the process entails several steps. When it comes to old laws, the simplest task is when you identify the entire piece of legislation as redundant. Such a piece can be repealed in its entirety, however this happens very rarely. In the year 2000-2001, when the movement towards legal reform gained momentum, about 200 such laws were identified and amendments to the Civil Procedure Code (CPC) were also passed.

    He added that most legislations have dysfunctional sections and are not entirely inapplicable. In such cases, modification becomes difficult as one needs to then examine and identify the particular sections that need to be repealed. In addition, if repealed, one needs to find out whether an alternative legislation needs to be prepared and the job becomes more tedious.

    The first step to identification of laws that need to be looked at would be to have an exhaustive list of the total number of statutes. While the central statutes can be numbered down to around 2,000-2,500, the state statutes have still not been counted down in records. This exercise needs much more focus and diligence.

    What is the process to repeal a law? How does it vary for different kinds of laws?

    Dr Debroy elucidated the process by discussing the different possibilities involved in the birth of the laws. The process for repealment depends on where the statute was enacted. A statute enacted by the union government has a bearing as pe the seventh schedule of the Constitution of India. If the statute is enacted from the Union List, it has to be repealed by the Parliament. A statute enacted from the state list will be repealed by the state legislature. For a statute enacted from the concurrent list to be repealed, a rectification from two-third of the total number of states is a pre-requisite.

    In matters of Constitutional Law, he said that an amendment to the Constitution is more difficult than other laws.  

    Laws in India are too complicated for a common man's understanding. Isn't there a need to simplify the law?

    Dr Debroy agreed that laws should be more lucid. Going a step further, he explained the reasons behind this state of affairs. He also highlighted how apart from just old laws, the Indian Parliament is also known for using legislation as the primary tool to tackle all kinds of issues.

    He went on to explain an important doctrine related to the enactment of laws - the discipline of cost and benefit. Under this principle, the legislator studies the gains and losses of enacting a particular law. This principle of discipline of cost and benefit, although globally present, has not been applied in India. As a result, many pieces of legislations enacted post 1991 have been enacted in isolation. The normal reaction of any member of Parliament (MP) or member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) to a problem, even if economic, is generally that they must solve it through legislation. Whether the legislation can be enforced or not is never analysed. Consequently, we have a bunch of legislations that have never even been used! The legislator not only needs to do a cost and benefit analysis, he must also take stock of all the existing laws that impinge on it.  

    Reformations should initiate at our legislature. Do you think the way the Parliament functions needs a change? Does the time-span for which the Parliament functions need to be extended?

    With the new trend of constant disruptions and adjournments, the dissatisfaction with the functioning of the Parliament is genuine and intense. Dr Debroy threw light on how an average MP is generally not interested in legislation. The position of the MPs are undermined by the standing committees.

    Usually, in case of a straight forward draft, the Parliament does not object. This draft, however, has to originate from a certain Ministry or Department. Highlighting the role of the Law Ministry as a catalyst for change, he said that this was the job of the Law Ministry. It has been observed that since 1991, the Law Ministry has not acted as a catalyst for change. In order for this to happen, a prompt follow up by the Law Commission is inevitable. The nature of the bureaucracy of the Law Department also needs to be designed to be more active and pro-reform.  

    You may also want to read...
    Is our archaic legal system plaguing the country?

    Time to get rid of absurdities in Indian laws?
     

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    COMMENTS

    Shirish Sadanand Shanbhag

    6 years ago

    Debroy should have highlighted flaws in Constitution of India. For example, Article 269 was applicable (as stated in it) for the first five years of commencement of the Constitution. This article should have repealed on 26.1.1955. Still it continues, in its repealed form.

    Vaibhav Dhoka

    6 years ago

    Law should be relevant to present day.Now take case of rent act which should reappealed immediately.The rent should be adusted as per index every three years.Tenanats earning increases,so as taxes payments but in Bombay rent act you cannot increase rent and claim possession.If such archaical laws are reappealed it will reduce burden from judiciary and houses will be freely available.

    SuchindranathAiyerS

    6 years ago

    I am all for minimalism. India needs less law and more law enforcement. India needs all the "Social Engineering Totalitarianism" to be excised from the Constitution and Laws, to restore a semblance of equality under law and enable the rule of law. India needs to make judges accountable to standards (do we dare utter after Sixty Seven Years of the Republic, competence, integrity and commitment to equity and the rule of law?)other than their representative capacity of some community, caste, gender or other privilege of birth. But, who will bell the cat? India has abolished the Rule of Law and has given up its right to be called a civilization. This is the natural outcome of sixty seven years of Neta-Babu Quota-Corruption Raj where the unaccountable Judges, Cops, Netas and Babus have applied the resources of the state exclusively to their own pleasure, pomp, pelf, and perpetuation. What happened to Suryanelli Kurien? That is but one blip in a continuing saga of corrupt, incompetent judges pampering wealthy and influential criminals and setting an example for the criminality of India, complimenting the criminals who rule the Nation. Civilization and Culture is a distant dream in an India that saw the resurgence under British rule of law for a brief period and is now relapsing to the patch work quilt of looting, raping Sultans, Rajas, Dacoits, and Thugs that prevailed before. Gandhigiri succeeded against the British by turning their strengths (rule of law, equality under law, fair play etc.) against themselves and so weakening them . It cannot succeed against the entrenched, ruthless criminals who have ruled India since 1947 from behind the ramparts of Government or without resort to that excuse.

    Want to set up an NBFC? – Think again
    The RBI is now singing a different tune. NBFCs have to take prior approval from RBI for any merger, amalgamation or even if any entity wants to buy 10% or more stake in the NBFC. This will make NBFCs think thrice before striking a deal involving substantial change in their shareholding
     
    The whammies on the non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) sector will likely show their adverse impact on the growth of NBFCs in India. The recent regulatory amendments have left the industry baffled and quite unsure on what the regulators are intending to achieve. 
     
    Firstly, the dawn of the Companies Act, 2013 (Act, 2013) which almost killed the bond market for the NBFCs. Secondly, the confusion over the Debenture Redemption Reserve (DRR) requirements created by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA), which left the NBFCs jittery with carrying out any debt issuance. Thirdly, the press release of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) with respect to the suspension of the issuance of the Certificate of Registration (CoR) for carrying on the business of NBFI. If these were not enough, the recent amendment said it and did it all.
     
    The RBI’s Non-Banking Financial Companies (Approval of Acquisition or Transfer of Control) Directions, 2014, dated 26 May 2014 requires NBFCs to procure prior written approval of RBI before any merger, amalgamation of NBFCs and even if any entity was to acquire 10% or more stakes in NBFCs. Post the recent notification the NBFCs will think thrice before striking a deal involving substantial change in their shareholding.
     
    In this write up we intend to cover the impact of the latest addition to the hall of shame (that the NBFCs might want to create!)
     
    What do the new directions say?
    The RBI has directed all the NBFCs to obtain a prior written permission to carry out the following: 
    (i) Any takeover or acquisition of control of an NBFC, whether by acquisition of shares or otherwise;
    (ii) Any merger/amalgamation of an NBFC with another entity or any merger/amalgamation of an entity with an NBFC that would give the acquirer / another entity control of the NBFC;
    (iii) Any merger/amalgamation of an NBFC with another entity or any merger/amalgamation of an entity with an NBFC which would result in acquisition/transfer of shareholding in excess of 10 percent of the paid up capital of the NBFC.
    (iv) Approaching the Court or Tribunal under Section 391-394 of the Companies Act, 1956 or Section 230-233 of Companies Act, 2013 seeking order for mergers or amalgamations with other companies or NBFCs.
     
    The RBI is very loud and clear on its language saying “all NBFCs”, which means all the NBFCs irrespective of whether it is deposit taking or non-deposit taking will have to comply with the requirements, whereas the earlier directions of 2009 with similar heading covered only the deposit-taking NBFCs. Moreover, the earlier directions covered only change in control but the scope of these directions is wider and would require the NBFCs to obtain prior written permission not just for amalgamations, mergers or takeovers but also for those investments which would transfer significant rights to rights to the investors.
     
    The directions also say that these to be followed in addition to all other existing laws. So, if the NBFC is listed on any stock exchange, it will have to comply with the SEBI (Substantial Acquisition of Shares and Takeover) Regulations, 2011 and needless to say the requirements under the Companies Act, 2013 will have to be complied with by all the NBFCs. So there is also an escalation of compliance cost for obtaining investments by the NBFCs.
     
    Intent of the RBI
    While the RBI said in the notification that these directions would help them to ensure that the management of the NBFCs are of “fit and proper” character, but the with the nature of restriction brought in by the directions, only one question arises – Are those holding the NBFCs are more fit and more proper than those who wanting to acquire?
     
    The press release, earlier this year, coupled with this recent one, do not pronounce this year to be very auspicious year for the NBFCs growth as the regulators seems to be working on cross purposes themselves. RBI neither wants us to create one, nor does it want to us to buy one leaving no room for growth horizon. If this ruthless law making continues, the day is not far where NBFC sector will witness rallies in growth trajectory. 
     
    (Abhirup Ghosh is research analyst at Vinod Kothari & Company)
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    COMMENTS

    Maulik Sanghavi

    7 years ago

    I think what RBI is doing is quite sensible. NBFCs are one of the handlers of the financial markets in India. Just because existing management might not be fit, you cant allow it to be handed over to another unfit person.

    It is very sensible to take the approval of RBI and most of us working practically would agree how NBFC structures are being exploited by various people.

    sreenath

    7 years ago

    sreenath
    its highly appreciable if RBI follows strict rules and those rules should be properly implemented and there should be strict controlling authrority and auditors who have appointed should be good credibility not like the previous NBFC scam where the depositors fund were looted by NBFC firm in collobration with RBi and former FM and its was he the master mind in its closure where by many middlemangement employees who have been having their lively hood had lost their job and their curse all put together that our previous FM refused to stand in the election this shows his credibility if we have such FM then our country would go to dogs but the present FM shri jatiley is for his honesty integrity and accountability we are sure that such catstrohe would not happen but the controlling institution should be watch dog of depositers

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