Although the Ministry of External Affairs Ministry (MEA) has brought about a sea change in the way passport applications are processed in the country to make the procedure seamless and quick, laggard police verification process is proving to be an obstacle in achieving the desired goal.
According to Chief Passport Officer (CPO) at the MEA, who attended a function on Wednesday where foundation stone of a new passport headquarters for Pune Region was laid, Maharashtra is among the most backward states as far as the efficiency of police verification is concerned.
The verification infrastructure in some districts of the state, said the officer, was as bad as those in Jammu and Kashmir and Nagaland.
Muktesh Kumar Pardeshi, Joint Secretary (PSP) and CPO, laid the foundation stone of the Passport Bhavan, which will come up on Pashan-Baner link road on a 16,000 square feet plot. Atul Gotsurve, Regional Passport Officer; Narendra Kumar, Chief Engineer, CPWD Pune; Sanjay Patil, Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), too were present on the occasion.
Pardeshi said there had been exponential growth in demand for the passport and its issuance. “The passport issuance system in the country has seen a turnaround. In 2010, the annual passport issuance rate was 60 lakh. In 2015, it has doubled to 1.2 crore. We are the third largest country in passport issuance rate, behind China and United States. In two-three years, we are expected to surpass the US. In fact, by 2020 we are likely to cross the 2 crore mark,” said Pardeshi.
He lamented though that at some places, the police verification process had not caught up with the pace with which passport offices are working. “Although Maharashtra is growing at great speed, the passport verification hasn’t improved to the level we expect. The process in Kerala is much quicker. In UP also, although the number of application has doubled in the last few years, the police machinery has managed to cope with it. The process in Tamil Nadu, too, is much better compared to Maharashtra. Of the 731 districts, only 41 districts are yet to adopt the online police verification process. Of these, there are some in Jammu and Kashmir, Nagaland and very sadly in Maharashtra as well. This is not expected of Maharashtsra. It should at least match the national average,” said Pardeshi.
Presently, national average for days taken to complete police verification is 34 days where as in Maharashtra, it stands at 51 days.
About new Passport Bhavan
The new regional headquarters building, to be called Passport Bhavan, will have four stories with parking facility at the basement as well as at the stilt floor. The building will house a mini passport seva kendra, apart from other offices which are presently operating out of present establishment on S B Road. “It’s a big achievement for us both emotionally and the practical benefits it will have. The Pune RPO came into being in 1999 after bifurcation of Mumbai region. Then we started operating from a rented premise in Market Yard. In 2004, we shifted to Sheti Mahamandal establishment on S B Road. Once this building comes up, we will have our own building for first time,” said Atul Gotsurve, RPO, Pune.
The construction of the building, Gotsurve said, is expected to be completed by July 2017. The building will have state-of-the-art vigilance system and will fulfill green norms, will be energy efficient, disabled friendly and will also have rain water harvesting system. The land has been taken on lease.