Guwahati, Monday, May 31, 2010
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Hi-tech passport service to be launched in city
Kalyan Barooah
 BENGALURU, May 30 – Guwahati is among the select 77 cities, where passport services are all set to go high-tech, with External Affairs Ministry (MEA) formally unveiling the Passport Seva Kendras

 (PPSKs). The project is also slated to be launched in rest of the seven state capitals of the North Eastern Region albeit on a smaller scale.

The project envisages delivery of passport services in a timely, transparent and more accessible, reliable manner through streamlined processes in the first Public Private Partnership (PPP) venture of its kind in the country.

According to Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), the PSK in Guwahati, would be co-located with the passport office. Besides, the MEA has identified few other cities in the NE, where mini-PSKs would be established. These cities are Agartala, Aizawl, Imphal, Kohima, Shillong and Itanagar, besides Gangtok.

The e-governance initiative proposes end-to-end online tracking, connectivity with all the district and police headquarters, less paper work, dedicated three-tier data centres and disaster recovery centre and central passport printing facility. The new system that envisages prompt door delivery of passport has some advanced security features including digital photographs and fingerprint capturing at PSKs and biometric access control.

The project being implemented in a BOT model with all strategic assets like data centres and application software, is to be controlled by the Government. The basic design involves outsourcing of all non-sovereign, non-security and non-sensitive functions to the private players. The project also involves computerisation of the police verification process to reduce the processing time.

The MEA has also proposed to introduce for the first time productivity linked incentive scheme for its staff, while the rates payable to State Governments for police verification are being increased.

After five cycles of testing the application software has been conducted by a third party audit agency here. Since then about 1000 passports have been issued under the new system under pilot project. All the seven PSKs in Bengaluru and Chandigarh at the seven pilot project sites are ready for launch. After certification of the first phase of the project, it would be rolled out in rest of the 70 Kendras countrywide, said MEA officials.

Meanwhile, launching the PSK, External Affairs Minister, S M Krishna on Friday said the process of economic liberalisation and reforms envisioned had brought about high growth rates. The resultant opportunities and the growing proportion of the youth had pushed the demand for passports to unprecedented levels. Between 1958 and 2006, the number of passport applicants increased 133 times and between 2006 and 2010, the number of passport applicants almost doubled, he said.

The Passport Seva Project is a path breaker in more than one way. It involves several innovations. It is the first national level project capturing biometrics, and has set up the first Government Call Centre run in 18 languages, the Minister said, while launching the project.

The passport system is totally dependent on the State police for verification of the antecedents of the applicants. While all police verification proformas of the applicants will flow to the district police headquarters electronically, the verification will still be done manually. The Union Ministry has enhanced the amount payable to the State Government from Rs 100 to Rs 150 per verification.

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