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E-passports for public within a year: Pranab

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‘Will facilitate easier movement and help eliminate forgeries’.

Mr Pranab Mukherjee, External Affairs Minister (file photo).
Mr Pranab Mukherjee, External Affairs Minister (file photo).

Our Bureau

Coimbatore, Sept. 14 The Ministry of External Affairs has started issuing e-passports and biometric passports in the diplomatic and official categories. It has drawn up a programme for the full roll-out of e-passports in the ordinary passport category by September 2009.

Such passports will facilitate easier movement and help eliminate forgeries, the Union Minister for External Affairs, Mr Pranab Mukherjee, said.

Speaking at a function to mark the inauguration of a regional passport office in the city, he said the Passport Seva Project, which aims to deliver passport-related services to citizens in a timely, transparent, accessible and reliable manner, would be implemented within 19 months. It would be complete by the last quarter of 2009.

Mr Mukherjee explained that this would result in the issue of passports within three days and in cases requiring police verification, within three days after completion of the verification process.

Tatkal passports would be issued on the day of submission of the application, he said and added that the Ministry proposed to have 68 passport facilitation centres across the country to verify documents and decide on granting the passport. “Police verification would be expedited through electronic linkage of these facilitation centres with the police authorities in State capitals.”

With the launch of the regional passport office here, Coimbatore has emerged as the fourth city in the State and 37th in the country to have such a facility. Hitherto, applicants from Coimbatore and its adjoining districts such as Nilgiris, Erode, Namakkal and Salem had to go to Chennai for passports.

An estimated 50 lakh passports are said to have been issued last year compared to 22 lakh in 2000. The Ministry is expecting this number to surge to 80 lakh in 2010.

NSG waiver

Talking to reporters on the sidelines of this launch, Mr Mukherjee said the entire issue of the NSG waiver and the 123 Agreement with the US were in the public domain. “Internal businesses are transacted openly and on the basis of open matters,” he said.

To a query on the serial blasts in Delhi, he said: “It is unfortunate that India has been the worst victim of terrorism. The country has witnessed enormous development in the last six to seven years. Terrorists have no respect for ideologies or national interest. They believe in destruction.”

He said there were no dearth of laws in the country to combat terrorism, but all depended on the implementation of the legal provisions and utilisation of the machinery.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated September 15, 2008)
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