The new generation electronic passport, which aims to secure the data and curb the menace of fake passports, is likely to be introduced by next year, a senior government official said here today.
"A Task Force has been set up to look into the e-passport project, which has held deliberations with different stakeholders (departments). We are planning to start issuing e-passports to new applicants by next year," Joint Secretary (Passport Seva Project) and Chief Passport Officer Muktesh K Pardeshi told reporters here.
The e-passport will replace the existing passport document with a plastic card embedded with an electronic chip containing all the details of the passport holder, including biometric information, besides a digital signature of a passport officer, he explained.
"In 2013, the Government of India has issued close to 85 lakh passports and other related documents globally and recorded a growth of 14-15 per cent over 2012 (wherein 73.6 lakh passports were issued). Going by this trend, we are expecting to cross the one-crore mark in issuance of passports annually by the end of 2014 calendar year or by early 2015," the Chief Passport Officer said.
"It's also a great opportunity for the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) to extend one crore citizen service every year. With one crore passports being issued in a year, we will be in a group of handful of countries, with only two countries China and US which are issuing over one crore passports every year," Pardeshi said.
Stating that it would be a great responsibility and opportunity as well as challenge for the passport officials, he said, "We have to scale up and expand our services and have to bring in more efficiency within our passport officials and we always have to be innovative."
Regional Passport Officer (RPO) K Srikar Reddy said the trial for hand-held devices (palm-top computers) for police constables, enabling online police verification at citizens' doorstep is presently on in West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh and now it is contemplated to start it on a pilot basis under Cyberabad Police Commissionerate here and later to other parts of the state and country.
Hyderabad tops the list of RPOs in terms of the number of applications processed and services rendered at 6.4 lakh and 6.3 lakh, respectively, with 8.9 per cent of total passport services in the country, Reddy said.
He added that Visakhapatnam, with 11 days, tops the list of RPOs on time taken in police verification.
Country's second Passport Seva Laghu Kendras (Mini PSKs) will be inaugurated tomorrow in Karimnagar district, he said.