Bad printers delaying passports

Regional Passport Officer K J Srinivasa.

People make a beeline for meeting Regional Passport Officer K J Srinivasa at his Koramangala office in Bangalore, with a host of complaints ranging from pending applications to documents. Amid these, he has also to tackle various other problems, including those related manpower and infrastructure.

An Indian Foreign Service officer of the 2002 batch, who took charge three months ago, Srinivasa is making all-out efforts to steer the ship when things are all at sea. Excerpts:
Pending applications

Srinivasa says nearly 25,000 passport applications are pending clearance and that the number will likely come down soon. “Most of the applications pending are those that were submitted through Speed Post, BangaloreOne and the district passport collection (DPC) centres. We have a deadline of March 31 to clear old applications. We are still receiving about 300 applications from Speed Post and DPCs at an average 300 a day, and this tends to accumulate. There is also a delay in several cases with police verification.” The pendency of cases requiring police verification is sizeable, he says.

Resource problems

While collection of applications can be increased, the number of officials processing them at the passport office has dwindled. “We lack resources as everyone is concentrating on Passport Seva Kendras (PSKs) and not on pending applications. The Union government has now deputed special officers for two weeks each to help us clear the backlog. We are now working on Saturdays and overtime,” he stresses. As old cases are set to be resolved by the month-end, the services of these officers will be utilised in increasing the number of applications accepted at the PSKs.

Cause for delay

There are delays in clearing applications submitted not only at the PSKs, but also at other centres as well. The prime reason, Srinivasa says, is the lack of printers. “The printers we have are old, and three out of six need repairs. Their spares are not easily available. We will replace them by March.”

As of now, the remaining printers are being used in two shifts to issue as many passports as possible.

Problems with PSKs

The PSKs, started with much fanfare, have faced more than their share of problems. Long waiting time for application submission, frequent server breakdowns, lack of parking space on the office premises, compulsory online registrations, and the list goes on.

There is no magic wand, but the passport officer claims the PSK services have stabilised, though issues with the software crop up once a while.

The PSK near Lalbagh has doubled its space and changes to make things smoother for the applicants are slowly but surely coming, he told this newspaper.

Attempts are also being made to allow a small percentage of walk-ins for senior citizens and those with small children. For the rest, however, it is will be only online registration. However, kiosks at the PSKs where people can register online and get their documents scanned, will stay, Srinivasa adds.

Changes in the offing

By April beginning, the number of tokens issued at the PSKs in the State will increase.

There is good news for applicants, as the problem of parking in the two congested centres is being addressed.

A mini PSK will be set up in Gulbarga in mid-February and run entirely by the Ministry of External Affairs.

Complaints about the file status not being updated on the official website are also being looked into, especially of the applications that are not submitted at the PSKs.

A shift from walk-in submission of applications to online registrations will be adopted in Mangalore, too, the passport officer says.

A decision is also expected on whether recognised travel agents should be permitted to apply for passports on behalf of applicants, a move aimed at helping those who find applying online difficult.

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