Thursday, June 28, 2012


NEW DELHI: The TOI campaign on the passport logjam has made the government put reforms on the fast track. In an unprecedented move, the ministry of external affairs on Thursday announced a 'Passport Mela' this weekend at many PSKs countrywide - the kendras will remain open on Saturday and Sunday and people can just walk in, without an appointment. This practice will continue till the entire backlog has been cleared.
In a special briefing to TOI, Raghavendra Shastry, adviser to external affairs minister S M Krishna, gave details of fresh measures that are expected to address the concerns raised by the people - and reported by this newspaper to help make the new passport application process smoother and transparent.
The ministry has also reviewed the online appointment process, and from Friday, an additional 30% slots are being released. This will take the number of daily slots in the capital from 1,650 to 2,050. Moreover, appointments will now be given for up to 30 days instead of 15. "This way, we believe we will be able to process 6 lakh applications in the country this year," saidchief passport officer and joint secretary in MEA Muktesh Kumar Pardeshi.
"We have taken the suggestions given by TOI seriously and want people to know that we are working hard on them. There has been a huge backlog of applications due to the holiday rush, which is why we are having this passport mela. MEA is doing it for the first time in the country. This will help us smoothen the service in about six weeks from now," said Shastry.
"We will entertain walk-ins only on weekends. And people need not form queues early in the morning. They can come anytime after 10am," said Basant K Gupta, additional secretary, consular passport & visa division, MEA.
The ministry has reiterated its promise of revisiting its website. "There has been a lot of confusion over the passport application website. The older site, is no longer functional but people have been visiting it. Therefore, we are going to redirect traffic from there to our functional portal, We are also going to prepare a fresh list of documents required for applying under various categories. There will be no ambiguity in %the process anymore," Gupta said.
Does this mean that there will be no more surprise demands for additional documents by PSKs? "Yes. TCS staff will no longer decide what documents are needed. Now, only government officials will check if all documents are in place and if anything else is required," said Gupta.
So far, the applicants who were turned back by PSKs for lack of documents had to try their luck again with %the online appointment system to book a slot. "This will not happen anymore. If there is any requirement of a document, an applicant will be given three days to return with the papers," Pardeshi said. 
To ensure prompt delivery of passports, the postal department has been roped in. "The postman will be given an incentive of Rs 50 per delivery. He will call up or send an SMS before coming to ensure that the passport is delivered to the person to whom it is issued," said Raghavendra Shastry, advisor to minister of external affairs.
He said that the system will be implemented across the country and S M Krishna will personally write to all state chief ministers to ensure implementation of the revised rules.
Apart from Delhi, passport melas will be held at the following places: RPO, Koramangla, and PSKs at Sai Arcade, Lalbagh, Mangalore and Hubli in Bangalore; RPO and PSKs at Nelson Manickam Road, Saligramam, and Tambaram in Chennai; RPO and PSKs at Begumpet, Ameerpet, Toli Chowki, Vijayawada, Tirupati and Nizamabad in Hyderabad; RPO and PSKs in Lucknow, Kanpur, Varanasi, and Gorakhpur; and passport office at 14 Mall Road in Amristar.

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