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Applying for passport is a cakewalk now

The new Passport Seva Kendras are free of agents and other complications The ordeal of applying for a passport is now over with the setting up of smart, roomy PSKs in tandem with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) in Ernakulam

Passport-Seva-Kendra.JPGForty-five minutes. That is the time an applicant is required to spend at a Passport Seva Kendra (PSK) to complete the application procedures provided the documents stipulated are in order and the case is free of complications.

Five PSKs have commenced operations under the Regional Passport Office, Ernakulam. Of these, barring Thrissur, where the operations have not attained top speed, each Seva Kendra processes on an average of over 270 applications every day.

While the TCS staff manning the front office stations collect biometric data of applicants queued up on the basis of a token system, passport officials verify the applicants’ credentials by checking the veracity of documents and collect fees.

“The system has been automated in such a way that an application automatically goes to print as soon as the police clear it for issue. Unlike in the past, they are not required to manually hand it over to us. Rather, they can now upload the police verification report (PVR) into the integrated network. The process is still easier in the case of minors, government officials and those already having a passport — as they don’t require the PVR,” said sources.

After the launch of the PSKs, the RPO at Panampilly Nagar has restricted itself to receiving applications for official and diplomatic passports alone. It also entertains an odd application to correct a wrong entry inadvertently made by officials besides those requiring remittance of zero fee. The flipside of the rosy picture is that the creation of PSKs as the much-needed public interface for receipt of applications has burdened the back office.

“The RPO is seriously short-staffed with senior gazetted officers being deputed, on rotation, to the Seva Kendras. Further, six officers superannuated in the last two months and the posts have not been filled so far. Tatkal passports, issued on the basis of documents and affidavits, could give us a lot of trouble in case their police verification report is adverse. This would create taxing back office work and we need designated officers to endorse certain documents,” said sources.

The advent of PSKs has obviated the need for speed post centres to receive passport applications; this has also rendered district passport cells obsolete. However, applications from Lakshadweep are still made the old-fashioned way thanks to the absence of a Seva Kendra there. The plus with a Seva Kendra is that an applicant domiciled in the jurisdiction of RPO Ernakulam can now submit his/her application, after making online registration, at any of the PSKs under it depending on his/her convenience.

At the PSKs, walk-in tokens are issued on humanitarian considerations. “Minors accompanying their parents, for instance, are front-benched…. The new system has considerably reduced the stranglehold agents so far had on applicants. They still manage to hold sway over applicants who are not Internet-savvy, as the applications have to be initially submitted online.”

Statistics indicate that the RPO Ernakulam has issued 16,715 passports including 5,927 Tatkal passports from 20,920 applications it received till May this year. Among 1,562 miscellaneous applications, mostly for police clearance certificate, it took in file during this period, 1,387 have been dealt with.

“The fact that one-third of the applications are for Tatkal passports, on which verifications are carried out at a later date, signals the need for more hands to do the back office job,” said an official.