While Pune Regional Passport Officer assures easing procedures, TCS hides but cannot escape

Master Service Agreement shows that TCS is responsible for operations, printing of passports and addressing ‘grievances’. Pune Passport Grievance Forum to file complaint with CIC for not adhering to pro-active disclosures under Section 4 of the RTI Act

Regional Passport Officer, Pune, Shakuntala Rane assured members of the Pune Passport Grievance Forum (PPGF) that she will address the passport complaints filed by aggrieved passport applicants with the PPGF, by 18th February. She also said she will make the procedures easier for applicants in a fortnight’s time.

The meeting was initiated by Rajya Sabha MP Vandana Chavan, at the Regional Passport Office, Senapati Bapat Road on Tuesday, 12th February, who has lent her support to the PPGF and is taking up the issue with ministry of external affairs in Delhi.

Ms Chavan and members of the PPGF protested against the absence of the Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Western Region head, Manoj Bhargav who pulled out at the 11th hour stating he is in Goa. Ms Chavan and the PPGF are planning to complain to Salman Khurshid, Union minister of external affairs against Mr Bhargav, for not participating in a serious issue concerning citizens’ passport problems. TCS is in a public-private-partnership (PPP) alliance and one of the agreement clauses in the Master Service Agreement (MSA) is “(viii) Call centre and grievance handling” under the contractual obligations, the role and responsibilities of Service Provider rules, that it signed with ministry of external affairs on 13 October 2008”. However, TCS is in hiding and has not answered a single email communicated to it regarding passport issues in the Pune division.

The most common and frustrating complaint is that of not getting an “appointments online” once the passport application form is successfully filled up online. One of the applicants Dr Shrikant Limaye wrote to the PPGF, which we took up with Ms Rane. He stated: “How do the 650 slots per day at Passport Seva Kendra in Pune get full within eight to 10 minutes, after 3.00 pm?  The TCS people have designed a worst ‘on-line’ submission system. When the Indian Railways can handle a much larger number of bookings ‘online’ and one gets a reservation within a time span of 30 days or more, why for getting an appointment for passport, I must log in every time and get rejected? The appointments must be given as soon as I submit the online application and get my ARN number. It is the duty of Passport Seva Kendra to give an appointment and not of the citizen by taking a number of trials every day!”

Ms Rane has assured all aggrieved passport applicants who do not get appointment to walk in at the Passport Office, Senapati Bapat Road during the working hours of all working days to get their appointments across the counter.

As for the problem of being unable to take out the printout of the online application form or not being able to access that link, Ms Rane stated, “we will try and make arrangements to address this problem in the next 15 days.”

When asked for a copy of the Master Service Agreement between the Passport Division of the ministry of external affairs and TCS, Ms Rane said she does not possess nor is it there on the website. Vijay Kumbhar, member of the PPGF, stated that, “this document comes under pro-active disclosure of Section 4 of the RTI (Right to Information) Act and should be made available in the public domain. PPGF will file a complaint to the Central Information Commission, for not adhering to this mandatory rule.”

When Vandana Chavan asked about responsibility of the TCS in this project, as its partnership was meant to ease the procurement of the passport, Assistant Passport Officer Mrs Arora who was also present at the meeting stated, “They are not separate from us”.  Regarding the role of TCS, Ms Rane explained, “TCS is in charge of the complete online system which includes online application form; online appointment schedule and digitalization of documents after police verification.” She said that “four TCS employees work in this office to digitalise police verified documents but they are overloaded with work.”

 To a question about the role of the TCS in the passport project posed by MP Laxmant Naik in the Rajya Sabha in August 2012, E Ahmed, minister of state in ministry of external affairs had replied, “As per the agreement, it is the duty of the TCS to ensure ‘Under the contractual obligations, the role and responsibilities of Service Provider include provision/ setting up of

  1. all hardware, software, networking & personal computers of the entire Passport system,
  2. physical infrastructure for all PSKs as determined by the Ministry in terms of RFP, including interiors thereof,
  3.  Data Centre (DC), Disaster Recovery Centre (DRC) and Central Passport Printing Facility(CPPF),
  4.  maintenance and operations of all the aforesaid,(v) staff for all private counters at PSKs,
  5. technical support for PSKs, POs, DC, DRC and CPPF,
  6.  training of staff on the application software, general computer skills, soft skills, customer service & delivery,
  7. Call centre and grievance handling,
  8. compliance with the Service Level Agreement,
  9.  Change Management and communication strategy & implementation, and
  10.  obtaining ISO (9001, 27001, 20000) certifications for the Passport System.’

Thus stated Vijay Kumbhar, a leading RTI activist and member of the PPGF, “the onus of the entire operations of passport infrastructure, facilitating procurement of passports, addressing grievances and also printing of passports is on TCS and this private agency cannot shrug off its responsibilities by saying that its job ends with digitalization of application forms, as has been stated by an official of TCS.”

Former Central Information Commissioner and RTI Activist Shailesh Gandhi stated that, “If it is substantially financed or controlled by the government, the private entity comes under the RTI Act. If the government has ‘control’ of money, monopoly or land, then the private agency which is in the PPP venture comes under the RTI Act. TCS fits the bill as I had ordered in a decision when I was the CIC”

There are many complaints of the online status of passport applicants being shown as “police verification pending” whereas when applicants go to the respective police stations, they are told that it has already been sent back to the passport office. Deputy Commissioner of Police, Foreign Registration Office, Rajendra Mane, also the head of the Passport Division in Pune Police Commissionerate who was present at the meeting stated, “there is some lacunae in the online system as many a time when it shows `police verification pending’ we have the manual record to prove that we have already sent it to the Passport Office. Which means, unless the Passport Office uploads our verification details the status does not change.” When asked to clarify this, Mr Rane stated that, “the TCS employee who does this work is overworked.” He added, digitalization of police verification would commence by the end of March and that would perhaps ease the problem.

The PPGF has appealed to the Passport Officer to make the working of the passport office transparent as regards putting up on the website the list of names of the 650 applicants who get their appointment everyday; put up the copy of the Master Service Agreement between TCS and the ministry of external affairs and to make procedures transparent and simple for the passport applicant. The PPGF will lodge a complaint with the Central Information Commissioner against violation of pro-active disclosure under Section 4 of the RTI Act.

The PPGF warns citizens not to entertain passport agents as all of them are unauthorized. The circular recently issued by the ministry of external affairs states: “Members of the public are advised to desist from dealing with touts/agents who may be charging exorbitantly for their service and further, may be making false promises about arranging assured urgent appointment or faster passport service delivery. After the launch of Passport Seva Kendras, the appointments are available to general public through the website. Alternatively, certain categories of applicants are allowed to walk in without appointment, details of which are available on the website. The government has not authorised any intermediary/representative to undertake such activity or to give such assurances. Such incidents of harassment/influence by them may be reported to the concerned Passport Officer.”


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”.)

Debasish Ray Chawdhuri
5 years ago
I do not think the Government actually understands what easying means because they certainly ain't doing it.
Vineeta Bachate
7 years ago
I applied the passport and my file number is PN1060447086616, i got the message as "Police has submitted clear report for previous address 1" as message to my mobile on 13th March 2017, but still now i am not received the passport. And the status also does not changed. My both address police verification was done.
So please tell how long I wait for passport.
1 decade ago
Replied to MELVIN comment 1 decade ago
Hi Melvin,
We appreciate your concern and are open to any suggestions to fix the problem technically. We would like to discuss the same. Kindly provide your contact number so the same can be discussed.
kamal modi
1 decade ago
I have been trying to appointment since last 10 days.No matter how fast I do on net,booking is over in matter of seconds.How is that possible?It reminds me of old days when advance booking for tickets in movies got over as soon as the counter is opened.We all know what used to happen between ticket seller & people who sell in black market.

What I failed to understand is that WHY BOOKING IS OPEN FOR NEXT DAY ONLY.Why not booking is open for 1 or 2 months ahead?
1 decade ago
I can share my Exp. Yes getting appointment is hell, 5 minutes is too much time, Window opens for first 20-40 seconds to get into appointment process, there one gets 1-2 minutes to book, So its a practice of typing.
Other issue is they block by IP so from Office, limited # allowed.

But I have to say, once appointment is done, entire process which TCS handles is smooth. At least people treated like human.

I would say Online is the only way of transparency.
Ubaldo C DSouza
Replied to RAHUL KUMAR PALIWAL comment 1 decade ago
I try to do online activity to the extent possible but it is the question of the guys behind the internet curtain limiting the time slot of windows and such other tricks. If you have nimblde fingers and can master those hurdles, you're better off than having to face surly faces and rude conversation. You seem to have mastered the gamut
Bharat Joshi
1 decade ago
We got our passport in a week in Ahmedabad, and mind you in a normal course, no TATKAL or NO GHUS or NO CONTACTS. So this is doable.
Avinash Murkute
1 decade ago
There is something called as back up. When people are ready to award themselves (self awarding) as Centre of Excellence, they should be ready to accept award of Centre of Technological Nuissance.
Dayananda Kamath k
1 decade ago
in the name of transferency every govt and every activity is directed to internet. but this is the most risky stand we are taking . this is noe area nobody is sure of the data and anybody can hack and delete. and you will not have anything. let there be alternate avenue also
1 decade ago
I have been trying to get an appointment in Thane Passport Kandra for the past one week, but the website constantly mentions - "Appointments are full for the day". Earlier the site used to open everyday for appointments and close at around 5 minutes past 3pm. But for the one week it is not opening at all. I have sent the screen shots by email to Thane PSK, but no reply. I wonder what is happening!
Ubaldo C DSouza
1 decade ago
The Passport issue is "passing the buck" which the Government and bureaucracy have fine-tuned to an 'exemplary" level. Shame on those who do not have the courage to own responsibility and do what is to be done. If the concerned were there by merit and ability and not by nepotism or such intrigues, they would have what is required to handle their work brief.
Avinash Murkute
1 decade ago
It is not story just with TCS or others but is also with the info sys managing the affairs of CPC Bengaluru of Income Tax Department. The commissioner working for infosys (vendor) asked me WHO ARE YOU and WHAT ARE MY QUALIFICATIONS, when i pointed serious lapses in s/w managed by so called highly qualified professionals and by so called CMM 5 level Company. If Sir Deming would have been alive, he must have had died of shock looking at the s/w quality and processes of this vendor. According to Commissioner working for this vendor 5+3 = 2+2! I am sure even a standard 3 student shall have better answer than that of this vendor. I am filing a detailed complaint against this commissioner working for vendor and who demanded 500 RS fees for 10 pages of half and late information having email addresses of infosys. And info that shows processes of inofosys has not been provided. What was shocking is that employees manning this CPC can’t even read letters and PAN numbers. Recently they sent corrupt PDF files and I am yet to meet a CA who is happy with CPC. Many more interesting stories I have learnt. I have already written to vigilance of ITD - that CPC commissioner is working for vendor and non-rebuttal of his orders shall be insult to honest officials of ITD. Comment written with full responsibility ~ Avinash Murkute, Pune. Note: Anyone who needs any information on above comment (including vigilance officials and / or process managers of vendor are most welcome)
1 decade ago
I am a NRI,i understand issue of passport is very sensative involving national security.Each street guy should not know things like master agreemen .It will be same stupidy indian media does(like showing live happening of 26/11)
Vinita Deshmukh
Replied to gvk comment 1 decade ago
I have no idea whether you are a NRI or the TCS PR is getting active and reactive. What is sensitive about me as the rightful citzen of India knowing the procedures of getting my passport and chronological role of the public as well as the private agency which is in partnership and is responsible for giving me passport and where bungling and underhand dealings are going on? If yo really are a NRI you would know how passport divisions work abroad and how transparent they are about the procedure. Matter is sensitive if i ask passport details of another individual and for this RTI Act has Section 8 under which information can be denied. Instead of blaming media as `stupid' pl do not use your stupidity to misinterpret the meaning of national security. Instead try and understand this era of transparency and right to information. I am surprised a global citizen like you should have objection to good governance!
Pushpendra Pandey
Replied to Vinita Deshmukh comment 1 decade ago
Madam i am sure "gvK" is not an NRI. He must be some stupid PR guy from TCS. But i still feel that bottleneck in passport issues is Corrupt Passport officers and Extremely corrupt Police personnels. Police verification without bribe is still a dream in India.Madam please Try to do something on that direction.
1 decade ago
Congratulations for the efforts of PPGF , its office bearers and members in getting such an important issue addressed to highest authorities.

There is a similar situation with NEW INDIA ASSURANCE CO for issuance of web based insurance policies.Again software vendor/consultant is either TCS or WIPRO.

Due to a mess of software developed and implemented in the most UNPROFESSIONAL manner,IT TAKES lot of time to issue a fresh/renewal policy ( all products-Mediclaim,Accident,Motor etc.).

There are LOT OF errors in terms of final premium, mismatch of premium with renewal notices, wrong renewal notices due to faulty software supplied and implemented by software vendor.

Most of the data entry operators at New India Assurance are UNIONISED staff with most poor level of efficiency-most of them were recruited in erstwhile monopolistic Government owned General Insurance companies.(prior to privatization of Insurance sector around year 2000.). Branch managers have NO CONTROL over unionized data entry operators for improvement of efficiency in quick issuance of error free policies.

It appears that software developer has aggressively GREASED palms of New India management in charge of Information Technology sub contracting.

One of the Senior Divisional manager of Mumbai had privately admitted mess in Software supplied and implemented by the vendor.

There are lacs of policy holders ( of New India Assurance ) all over India are affected by this defective software compared to few hundred passport applicants of Pune.
Vinita Deshmukh
Replied to deepaksb comment 1 decade ago
Oh my God! This seems a terrible situation. So much for getting these high profile corporates to make things easy for the Aam Aadmi!
Pushpendra Pandey
Replied to Vinita Deshmukh comment 1 decade ago
I must thank you Madam for taking this important issue. Every citizen of India who applies for passport goes through this pain. In my view every step of the passport application should have SLA and those who dont meet SLA should be penalized. Police officers should not be allowed to hold back the Police verification just because they have not been given bribe. Any police personnel found giving negative report for not getting bribe should be suspended and ciminal investigation should be done on him.
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