Bugs in MEA's passport to nowhere


The project, originally slated for a March deployment in Bangalore and Chandigarh, has become mired in problems related to the software that was to be developed by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS).

According to MEA officials, the entire programme might be put on the back burner considering the number of problems it faces. A 20-member team from the Standard Testing and Quality Control Directorate of the Department of Information and Technology, that tested the software detected a staggering 600 bugs the first time. The second time it was only slightly better at 100 bugs. The team is now expected to test the software a third time in the second week of October.

Data migration fears

What has compounded the problems is that TCS has not been able to completely facilitate data migration of the existing records to the new system. “Even the percentage of data they might be able to transfer is still not clear,” an MEA official said. There are fears that partial data migration might result in a person obtaining two passports as the records of a passport issued earlier might not reflect in the system.

According to the terms of the contract between the MEA and TCS, Passport Seva Kendras (PSKs) are being set up by the service provider.

In Karnataka, Bangalore will have two centres and there will be one each in Mangalore and Hubli. Of the Bangalore centres, the one on Lalbagh Road will be in a central location while the Marathahalli Ring Road PSK will be on the city’s periphery.
Some MEA officials are not pleased with the choice of Marathahalli. Although Marathahalli was identified as it conformed to space requirements, it might not be people-friendly as it would be located at quite a distance from the heart of the city.

Once the two centres become fully operational, BangaloreOne and Speed Post units will no longer accept passport applications as the PSKs will be equipped to capture biometric details.  Officials from both TCS and the software testing group from the Centre’s Department of Information and Technology refused to respond to queries.

A senior TCS executive had earlier reportedly blamed the MEA for the delay, saying that South Block had not readied the project’s disaster recovery site. MEA Joint Secretary and Chief Passport Officer A Manickam refused to be drawn into the controversy on the TCS statement and the project launch. “There is no such thing as a deadline. We will go public with it when we have a perfect system in place and are fully satisfied,” he said.

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