The entire process of passport issuance and police verification has seen a dramatic change in the last couple of years. Thanks to technology and few intellectuals, the process which was often marred by corrupt practices have become more streamlined and transparent. Dr K J Srinivasa, IFS, Regional Passport Officer is one person, who has ensured that using technology and proper governing practices, the process under his supervision is robust. He talks to Vyas Sivanand about the recent initiatives and his plans for the future.
What were the recent initiatives taken up by you in the last few years to streamline the entire process of passport issuance?
In the last two years, a lot has changed in the way a passport is issued, especially driven by technology. But we should not forget the human touch while appreciating the way technology has made every aspect much more organised. Everybody can now go online and register after which the entire process has been simplified. Recently we introduced certain categories of walk-ins which include tatkal, police clearance, government services, physically handicapped and ECNR stamp. We are also working towards walk-ins for elderly and minors.
To address applications which are rejected, which number to about 300-350 per day, we have initiated grace period of three days so that the applicant can come back on the same appointment and is not required to take a new one. Also, the applicant knows whether his application has been accepted or not, right at the time of his exit from the office. Two months back, we initiated a system in coordination with the police commissionerate wherein unlike previous practice when we had to send the application to the commissioner's office from where it used to go to the respective police station, now we send the application directly to the concerned police station. The onus is on the applicant to provide us with the correct police station which falls in his residential limit. The backlogs of our office is at 5000 which is the least in the country. We also ensure that the photograph is taken by us unlike previous times, when the applicant had to bring his or her photograph.
How many applications do you receive per day and how many passports are dispatched?
Till September 2010, application submission used to be only 1200 per day, but as on date, the application submission has doubled and is at 2400 per day. We are able to print and dispatch 1900 passports per day.
How have you been able to ensure proper surveillance of systems within the passport office?
There are proper reports and tracking systems in place within the system too so that people do not play the blame game or wash their hands off an error that has occurred. There is a three-level security with a password, a digital ID and a fingerprint access after which the person can access information.
How successful has the tatkal format been?
We have ensured that the tatkal system works in such a manner that the passport is delivered on the third day itself. The police clearance certificate is given the same day as we send the application online to the concerned police station and they too respond online.
How many Seva Kendras are operational in the state?
We have 77 Seva Kendras across the country out of which two are in Bangalore, and one each in Mangalore and Hubli. The Gulbarga Seva Kendra should be up and running in the next few months. We are also pushing for a Kendra in Mysore.
What are the main challenges?
The main challenge is the rising number of applicants which will only double in the next five years. So we may get about 4500 applications per day. This is because of the IT-BT boom wherein they insist for a passport because they know that it has been verified. Also, the economic status of people has improved dramatically and so has the offers to travel abroad at cheap rates.
Another challenge is the human resource shortage which is not keeping up with the spurt in applicants. We need more government staff to keep pace with the growth.
What are the future innovations?
In another 3-5 years, we will have digital passports with a chip. A retinal scan will be incorporated at a later stage. We are also trying to link the passport database with the home ministry which is building a consolidated crime database across the country. It should be implemented by next year.