HYDERABAD:Thirty-four year old Amanullah (name changed) did not know that he would be accused of having ‘multiple identities’ until he approached the Regional Passport Office-Hyderabad (RPO) for the renewal of his passport. He wanted to renew his old-fashioned hand written passport when officials told him that he owns more than two passports, which is a criminal offence. Officials sources said, the RPO here, fishes out about 20 fictitious passports on an average, every month.
Officials say, sometimes individuals with as many as four passports have also been identified during the verification process. The office here issues passports to 18 districts of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh together, and has stood as a national topper for the number of passports it issues. At the same time, it also encounters hundreds of bogus or duplicate passports from the citizens. However, the crime comes to the notice of the officials, only when an applicant approaches the RPO for passport renewal or re-issue.
Officials state that the number of bogus passports identified, however, might increase as only a couple of months are left for all hand-written passport holders to upgrade to machine readable formats.
“On November 24, all existing hand-written passports across the world would be phased out, following the International Civil Aviation (ICAO) norms. Even if a person is in the middle of his/her voyage, they would not get an entry or exit from any country with his/her hand-written passport. Through this new procedure, there would not be any more scope for passport duplication,” said Ashwini Sattaru, regional passport officer.
“Before Passport Seva Kendra system was introduced in 2010, we had a manual index system which could not identify duplication of passports. But, things have changed now,” explained the officer.
According to her, the new machine readable passports which have bio-metric identity leave no window for duplication. “In 2016, we are going to have an e-chip on the passports issued. The ghost images on passports too is a major step towards prevention of duplication,” she added.
A major chunk of cases involve gulf immigrants who ‘decrease’ their age for securing employment. Majority of them hail from the districts of Tirupati, Nizamabad, Chittoor and Kadapa. Fake birth certificates tops the list of fake documents. “Voter ID and Aadhaar cards, ration, gas or electricity bills etc are valid proofs,” she said.
A person can be fined up to `10,000 and in the case of a serious offence, the person is put in a ‘prior approval category’ and is denied issuance of passport for a maximum of up to 10 years.