While TCS plays hard to get, the Chief Passport Officer calls up on his own to say that vested interests are tarnishing the Pune’s Passport Office’s good image and that the 45-day period for receiving the passport is just a “service level benchmark”
While the malady of inordinate delays and harassment in getting passports, after applying at the Regional Passport Office, Pune, has led to our forming the Pune Passport Grievance Forum (PPGF), India’s Chief Passport Officer, Muktesh Pardeshi gives a clean chit to the Pune Passport Office. Officials of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), which is in a public-private-partnership (PPP) venture with the ministry of external affairs for the Passport project, do not come out in the open.
While the ministry of external affairs’ website clearly states that a citizen would get his or her passport in 45 days and in fact, three days as stated by TCS after it got into the PPP venture in 2008, Pardeshi explains, “issuing a passport is a service provided by the government to the people. The 45-day period for getting your passport is a “service level benchmark” and we are not bound by it. We can give you the passport even in 21 days or it could take six months in cases where police verification has not come to us in time. The government has the right to give you the passport or reject it.”
Terming that “vested interests” are trying to tarnish the image of the otherwise “good input-output record” of the Pune Passport Office which has no pending cases of passport issuance except for those that are still under process, Pardeshi puts the onus on citizens to seek help from various complaint and legal forums.
Staunchly denying that passport applicants in the Regional Passport Office, Pune are facing any inconveniences, he suggested, “Citizens who have any complaints should address them at the online Public Grievance Cell. We see the complaints everyday and we will address the issue.” He also advocated that aggrieved citizens should call up the call centre. When I told him that phone calls are not answered or they are not appropriately addressed, he denied that this could happen.
When told that many passport applicants are made to run from pillar to post between the Passport Office and police stations with both offices passing the buck on the other, Pardeshi states that since digitalization has not been introduced in states like Maharashtra, receipt of the manual records from the police takes time. “Why don’t you ask the police?” he suggested.
When this writer contacted the TCS media cell through an email on 3rd February, a representative called up on 4th February morning stating that only the Passport Officer or the Assistant Passport Officer can help me. When I insisted that I need to talk to the Pune head of the TCS Passport Seva Kendra, she said, “He cannot help you. It is no use talking to him. It is the government which issues the passport and not TCS so only the RPO or ARPO can help you and I will ask them to talk to you.” When I insisted that I would like to talk to the national head of the Passport Division project of TCS, she at the end of the day replied by SMS, “He is currently traveling overseas and will get the call fixed in the next 2 days.”
While I was left wondering as to why the TCS representative was dodging my request to merely talk to the concerned official, around 1.40pm I got a call from the Chief Passport Office, Delhi, stating that Muktesh Pardeshi, the chief passport officer, would like to talk to me. I was surprised that a Chief Passport Officer, who is at the level of a joint secretary in the ministry of external affairs, should be subservient enough to voluntarily give clarification to a stranger at the alleged behest of the TCS which wants to hide behind the scene. When at the end of the conversation I told him that what he said would be all published, he stated, “you never told me you are a journalist, you only said you are a RTI activist.” I insisted I did tell him I am a journalist first, he declined and then quickly added, “I will look into the matter.”
Pardeshi went on an offensive against all my queries of the mess in the Passport Office, Pune. He insisted that the Pune Passport Office has an impeccable record and it is those applicants who may have bad police records or the police which is not sending verifications in time are facing problems. I broached the topic of RTI applications being rejected by the Pune Passport Office if cash is paid as fees or with the promise, “wait for 10 days, your passport is being processed so don’t file a RTI and days turn into months with the passport not being given.” Pardeshi denied that this could happen and stated, “it is every citizen’s right to invoke RTI. If there are any problems, I am the appellate authority, so they can appeal to me.”
Pardeshi has assured, “if you give me specific file numbers of citizens who have not received their passports, please feel free to email me at [email protected]
I assure action within 48 hours. I am a very upright officer and work 14 hours a day and it is our duty to provide passports to citizens.”
Dear Mr Pardeshi, I do not dispute your honesty or hard work, but wonder why you should go out of your way to protect your private partnership agency, which has the responsibility of being answerable to the public.
|In the meanwhile, after the following story on 1st February in Moneylife: Inordinate delays at Pune Passport office; RTI applications rejected, young architect Sachin Bhasme, whose passport has been stuck for over four months, received calls from the police as well as TCS officials. He was assured that he would receive his passport within 8-10 days|
The Pune Passport Grievance Forum will hold its first citizen meeting on Saturday, 9 February 2013, at 11am at the Indradhanushya Hall, off Mhatre Bridge, in front of Sachin Tendulkar Jogging Park. Passport applicants who have grievances are welcome to attend the meeting. For more details call: Vinita Deshmukh: 98230 36663, Vijay Kumbhar: 99232 99199; Sandeep Khardekar: 98230 52596
Aggrieved passport applicants please feel free to complaint to:
GOVERNMENT OF INDIA
MINISTRY OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
CPV DIVISION, DELHI
COMPLAINTS & SUGGESTIONS
If you have any complaints regarding the Issuance of Passports and suggestions for the improvement (if any), please contact Respective Regional Passport Officer. If not satisfied with the service, you can write/ Telephone/ Fax to the Officers.
CHIEF PASSPORT OFFICER
Shri MUKTESH KUMAR PARDESHI,
Joint Secretary (PSP) & Chief Passport Officer,
Ministry of External Affairs,
Room No. 8, 1st Floor, Patiala House Annexe, New Delhi-110001
Tel: 91-11-23384519, 23384497,Fax:23384461
Email: [email protected]
PUBLIC RELATIONS OFFICER (PUBLIC GRIEVANCES)
Assistant Passport Officer(Public Grievances)
Tel: 91-11-23384519, 23384497 Fax:23384461
Please mention your File Reference Number, Date of Birth and Year Of Application and your RPO/PO in the subjectline while sending us your complaint/grievances through e-mail. Please note that this is compulsory.
Other stories from Vinita Deshmukh
(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”.)