The high-level meeting of Pune Passport Grievance Forum with senior-most officials of Tata Consultancy Services organised by Moneylife Foundation at its Mumbai office has raised some hopes for the generally harassed passport applicant
Tata Consultancy Services’ (TSC’s) vice-president and head for government-industry solutions unit, Tanmoy Chakrabarty, assured the conveners of the Pune Passport Grievance Forum (PPGF) that they will submit to the ministry of external affairs (MEA) a proposal to extend online appointments stretching to 20 to 30 days in order to lessen citizens’ distress in not getting online appointments promptly. Presently, citizens can take appointment only for the day.
While stating that TCS would consider giving more appointments than 650 per day currently, he appealed to citizens to be present for the appointment. He said that presently, 20% of applicants drop out every day, thus denying genuine passport applicants his or her fair chance. The meeting started with a detailed presentation by Mr Tanmoy Chakrabarty, Head Government Industry Solutions Unit at TCS on how its contract with the government on passport seva works across India. This was followed by a presentation by Moneylife Consulting Editor Vinita Deshmukh on the problems faced by applicants at the Pune passport office at each level.
Very importantly, it was revealed that a passport applicant can book his appointment for seven days from the day he logs in and not ONLY one day as is the common understanding. Shalini Mathur, senior Manager, TCS, stated that, “It has always been open for seven days from the day you log in, but most applicants are unaware of the same.’’ For some strange reason, this was not given adequate publicity.
Passport applicants undergo the trauma of revisiting Counter B or Counter A in Pune due to the supposed inadequacy of their documents. Rajesh Dogra, operations head of Passport Seva Project, stated, “We shall propose to the MEA to appoint seasoned passport officials at one more counter, which we will create, called Pre-A counter. Here, the documents will be verified by veteran passport office employees before they are scanned, so that number of trips are reduced when the applicant goes to Counter B for verification of documents.’’
This was a sequel to a question posed by conveners of PPGF as to why untrained and raw TCS personnel have been appointed at Counter A, where documents are blindly scanned without even basic verification. Presently, applicants are required to make several visits, on the whims and fancies of the passport officials.
In order to bring complete transparency to the number of documents that a citizen is required to bring to the passport office for his application, Dogra stated that, “Public information boards will be prominently put up on the premises of TCS and the Regional Passport Office (RPO), at several places, so that citizens are clear about the list of documents required. This will ensure transparency.’’
Regarding the inconvenience caused to applicants waiting for hours on end outside the Passport Seva Kendra of TCS, Chakrabarty has appealed to citizens to come only 15 minutes before their scheduled appointment. As for the inconvenience caused to applicants travelling to Pune, TCS officials assured that they would take up the opening up of mini Passport Seva Kendras in all six districts based on a proposal by MEA last year.
TCS officials will also request RPOs of the MEA to lodge complaints against illegal passport agents who roam in the premises. TCS will request MEA officials to hold passport melas in various towns and cities to make people aware of the working of the passport offices.
Sucheta Dalal, managing editor of Moneylife, stated that, “The Pune campaign has had an overpowering impact, which has led the highest authorities of TCS to take notice. Citizens of Pune should keep up the campaign till it reaches a logical end.’’
Conveners Vinita Deshmukh, Vijay Kumbhar and Sandeep Khardekar represented PPGF. They have decided to intensify the campaign through a thorough follow-up with TCS. They are also writing to minister of external affairs Salman Khurshid and are taking up the issue of police verification and security with the Pune police
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