MEA starts process to roll out chip-embedded passports

Chip will have all vital information of the holder stored in it

MEA starts process to roll out chip-embedded passports

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has initiated the process of creating chip-embedded high-security new-generation E-Passports, which could be given out from 2014-15. 

These new-look passports will have all vital information of its holder, including digital signature of the issuing authority, stored in the embedded chip, helping immigration authorities inside and outside the country.

Speaking at a press conference here on Friday, MEA Joint Secretary and Chief Passport Officer Muktesh K Pardeshi said a task force headed by a special secretary in the ministry has already started initial work with the Technology Committee to understand the feasibility of the Nasik-based Indian Security Press making these passports, which will have the chip embedded in one of the cover pages.

“The task force, consisting of representatives from the Home Ministry, National Security Agency, Finance Ministry and MEA, will first look into the Technical Committee report to see the parameters given,” added Pardeshi, agreeing that the cost of passports would increase due to rise in operational costs.
The MEA, which issued 85 lakh passports through its 37 offices and 180 embassies and high commissions abroad in  2013, plans to take that number to 1 crore annually, making India the third such country to do so, after China and the US. 

“Within two years, we will even surpass them and reach the 1.2-crore-per-annum mark,” he added.

The online Passport Seva Project, initiated in PPP mode, has been successful, and the time taken to issue a passport has come down to a month, reducing demand for the Tatkal scheme.  Also, the West Godavari police's verification process via hand-held gadgets in Andhra Pradesh, which has drastically reduced the process to less than five days, will be scaled up through a pilot project. 

“In all, 12 head constables were given palm-top computers. They went directly to applicants and finished verification through PDF files of their applications. After returning to the headquarters, they sent their verification report online to the passport centre,” explained Regional Passport officer Dr Srikar Reddy. 

In Andhra Pradesh the average verification time is 17 days, compared to 13 in New Delhi and 19 in Haryana.

Announcing other initiatives by the ministry, Pardeshi said soon the burden on officers would be reduced with steps like the introduction of facsimile signatures, a central bulk-printing press in Delhi that could take work from regional centres in case of technical snags or overburden, premium optional SMS facility to send updates about the status of applications, and a passport Seva mobile application for android phones.

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