Passport now, police verification later: How this department of govt is making life easier - Firstpost
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Passport now, police verification later: How this department of govt is making life easier

Remember when just the thought getting a passport/renewing it or even visiting the passport office was too exhausting to even contemplate?

The process of issuing a passport has become easier, quicker and definitely better with the Ministry of External Affairs deciding to accept police verification after the passport has been issued. The directive is for first-time applicants through normal category.

In a series of tweets, Union Minister of External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday said:

"...henceforth normal passport applications of all first time applicants furnishing Aadhaar, Electoral Photo Identity Card (EPIC), Permanent Account Number (PAN) and an affidavit will be processed on post-police verification basis, enabling faster issue of passport, without payment of any additional fees," a statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs said. It is part of government's efforts to improve and liberalise police verification procedure for passport issuance.

Regional Passport Officer in Pune Atul Gotsurve told The Indian Express that the MEA is not compromising any safety regulation by waiving police verification till after the passport is issued. "There would be no additional fee, and three documents and an affidavit about the criminal record would be enough to issue the passports. Police verification would take place post issuance. This will be most beneficial for passport aspirants in Maharashtra because police verification here takes 21 to 40 days, while in states like Delhi, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, it’s only 14 days."

Earlier, police verification for passport took 49 days, which was reduced to 42 in 2014, 34 in 2015, and 21 the same year.

AFP image.

AFP image.

During January 2014 to December 2014, 1.01 crore applications for passport and related services were processed by the MEA. While 87.03 lakh applications for passport and related services had been received, 84.69 lakh passports and related documents had been issued through the Passport Seva System, Muktesh K Pardeshi, Joint Secretary (PSP) and Chief Passport Officer, MEA was quoted as saying in this report.

During 2014, there was a 15 to 20 percent growth in the issuance of passports compared to 2013. A total of 3,224 official passports and 283 diplomatic passports were issued 2013 through the Passport Seva System, 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, the report added.

During the year 2015, 1.20 crore passport and related services were rendered by Passport Offices in India and the Indian Missions/Posts abroad. There is an increase of 21% over 2014 in the number of services rendered. As on 31st December 2015, approximately 6.33 crores Indians held valid passports.

Till almost six years ago, before the era of Passport Seva Kendras, getting a passport was nothing short of a hassle. The million trips to the passport office, negotiating and re-negotiating with the passport officers and finally giving up and hiring a 'passport agent' — the entire process was almost tailored to harangue travellers.

Police verification has been a crucial part of the entire process of getting a passport and stayed that way since its inception. The modalities of police verification have undergone various changes from time to time, whereas the principles have remained the same that is, ascertaining the applicant’s identity, citizenship and absence of criminal antecedents.

Reports have, in the past, said that the MEA streamlined the police verification system by digitally integrating 685 of 731 police districts in the country, which led to overall reduction in the number of days taken to complete police verification process to 34 days in 2015, as against 42 days in 2014 and 49 days in 2013.

Citizens will be granted a fresh passport under the normal category in a week if their applications are accompanied by three documents - copies of Aadhaar card, electoral photo identity card (EPIC) and PAN card — besides an affidavit in the format of Annexure-I (declaration of citizenship, family details and no criminal record).

Until now, the process would take a month, with the police verificat

Setting up of Passport Seva Kendras helped in a drastic way as it eroded the need for a middleman. Apart from precious money that was saved, applicants economised on time and unnecessary harassment at the hands of these agents. According to this report in The Telegraph, less than six percent of the population — 63.3 million Indians — hold passports. However, India is the third fastest in terms of the growth of passport holders after China and the US. The Indian passport office issued 12 million passports in 2015, compared to 14 million by the US and 16 million by China.

In August last year, government had already said that no police verification was required for reissue of passports. The MEA has also launched an 'mPassport Police Application' for speedy submission of police verification report.

Apart from this new directive, the government had also announced a five-day appointment window for passport applicants according to which such applicants can “choose” their appointment date. “The applicants for passport related services have to fill up their personal particulars online, pay requisite fee and schedule appointment through Passport Seva system before they physically visit a Passport Seva Kendra for further processing of their application,” the MEA said in a statement on Monday.

“Currently, the appointment is assigned by the Passport Seva system based on its availability and on first-in-first-out (FIFO) basis,” it stated.

Travel is being made easier by the government and there's no visible downside to the decision. With the option of choosing your own appointment dates and now by waiving police verification till after the issuance of the passport, the government is attempting to rip through the red tape — never mind cutting. And it is a welcome change. The new directives also remove the two biggest bottlenecks applicants used to face while applying for a passport.

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