As the Country is slowly turning digital, centre to soon roll out chip embedded e-passports, which can be incorporated with passports so that the information can be verified electronically, in the first phase by next year.
Minister of state for External Affairs V K Singh said today that fully digital passports that could be even be carried in mobile phones would be introduced in the next phase. Singh was talking to media persons during a visit to the Regional Passport office at Thiruvanthapuram.
He said that facilities for e-passports are being installed and it is expected that all fresh passports to be issued from next year would have the chips incorporated in it.
The minister also said that once the delay in police verification process is sorted out through electronic passing of information, the time required for issuing passports could be minimised.
In reply to a question, Singh said the restrictions imposed on overseas recruitment of nurses and female domestic workers had helped curb the exploitation in the sector. Singh, who had recently visited Saudi to help those stranded there following job losses, said the Saudi government is cooperating in getting the claims of Indian workers from Saudi employers. He also advised those still going to Saudi to take up employment to be cautious and go through genuine channels.
Earlier in the day, Singh reviewed the working of the Passport Sewa Kendra, Kollam also. Muktesh K Pardeshi, joint secretary (PSP) and chief passport officer, ministry of external affairs, told reporters in Kochi,
We are going ahead and are in the process of tendering. By 2015-16 we should be able to achieve e-passport
The external affairs ministry has plans in place and necessary orders in this regard have been issued, he said. Also known as Biometric or digital passports, these new passports will have a microprocessor chip embedded in it. India, which attained the distinction of being the third largest passport issuing country after China and US last year by processing one crore applications, is aiming at 20% growth this year, he said.
Kerala, where 10 lakh applications were received and processed, topped among the states, while Malappuram registered maximum applications among districts in the country, he said. During January to December 2014, 1.01 crore applications for passport and related services were processed by the external affairs ministry.
While 87.03 applications for passport and related services had been received, 84.69 lakh passports and related documents had been issued through the Passport Seva System, Pardeshi said. During 2014, there was a 15 to 20% growth in the issuance of passports compared to 2013, he said.
The government is expected to earn a revenue of aboutRs.2000 crore by March this year by issuance of passports as compared to 2013-14 fiscal when the revenue wasRs.1,800 crore, he said. A total of 3,224 official passports and 283 diplomatic passports were issued last year through the PSS, he said. Besides, about 14.95 lakh applications were received at the 183 Missions and Posts abroad and approximately 14.55 lakh Passport and related serves were rendered at these Missions and Posts, he added.
Pardeshi said about 71% of the applicants were first timers, while 29% were re-issuers. The Tatkaal applications, which were earlier 40%, had now fallen to 7% due to better services by the passport offices and seva kendras, he said.
While the youngest applicant last year was a two-day-old baby, the oldest was aged 114 years,he said.
On a pan-India basis, 21% of the normal passports are issued within three days, 47% within seven days, 64% within 14 days and 75% in 21 days. Pointing out that police verification plays an important role in timely dispatch of passports, he said in Kerala the verification was taking upto 24 days as online integration had not taken place.
We are in touch with police officers in Kerala and are cajoling them, he said.
If passport verifications are not delayed, the Kerala government can earn Rs.15 crore and this is a motivation for the state, he added. The passport office at Kochi looks after Lakshadweep, where less than 1,000 passports are generated a year. Periodic camps are also held in the Union Territory. Besides Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Assam and Jammu and Kashmir are among states where police verification was taking a long time, delaying issuance of passports, Pardeshi said.