New Delhi: The government announced the award of a Rs1,000 crore contract to Tata Consultancy Services on Monday aimed at bringing the entire passport issuance process online. With the process being digitalised passports would now be issued in just three days, once police verification was complete.
Government sources said the project would be rolled out countrywide gradually, with Bangalore and Chandigarh being the first cities to benefit with pilot programmes starting June next. The programme is expected to be complete by January 2010.
Passports under the Tatkal (instant) scheme would be delivered in just one day.
The number of passport counters would also be increased from 345 to 1,250, said official sources.
This is the latest initiative by the ministry of external affairs (MEA) to simplify issuance of passports. It had earlier raised the fees for various services, reduced the number of requirements, simplified the application form, enabled online tracking of passports and permitted select police stations to accept application forms.
''The sovereign and fiduciary function of granting and issuing passport remains with the MEA and TCS will be our technology and operations partner in this project,'' said foreign secretary Shiv Shankar Menon.
Menon also said the project was critical as against 50 lakh passports issued last year, the ministry expected the number of applicants to double over the next three years.
TCS would provide only support functions such as improving citizen interface, managing the technology backbone, call centres, training and change management. The government would continue to exercise all sovereign and security-related functions in the issuance process. Security aspects were fully taken care of in the project with the government owning all strategic assets including the data centre, database and the application software, Menon said.
The MEA has started issuing e-passports, also known as biometric passports, in the diplomatic and official categories since June 2008, and full rollout of e-passports in the ordinary category will be done by September 2009.
The e-passports will not be easily forged and will ease movement of owners through border points equipped with e-passport reading machines.
''After implementation of the project, which will be managed end to end by TCS, the ministry expects that the process of issuing a new passport will be completed in three working days while passports issued under the Tatkal scheme will be dispatched the same day, subject to address and police verification of applicants,'' explained TCS CEO and managing director S. Ramadorai.
TCS would open 77 new fully computerised passport seva kendras across the country by January 2010, he said.
Communication between the police and the passport office would also be done online and a secure network would be created.