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Sinha steps to speed up passports

New Delhi, Jan. 27: Foreign minister Yashwant Sinha today listed a series of steps to speed up issuing of passports.

“The passport is a right of every citizen of India,” Sinha told the passport officers’ conference this afternoon. “Granting a passport is neither a privilege you confer on anyone nor a matter of discretion. It is a document that must be provided to every citizen who seeks it unless for some reason or the other, they are disqualified from getting a passport,” the minister said.

“To grant passports in a smooth and speedy manner with the least amount of hassles to the applicant should therefore be the norm. Delay and denial should only be an exception,” he said. To achieve this, he presented a series of recommendations.

First, he said all passport offices should be computerised and modernised. This should be done in tandem with upgrading systems in Indian missions across the world. The central database, which was launched today, will enable speedy verification of passport particulars within and outside the country.

Second, the minister said delivery of passports should be “efficient, prompt and applicant friendly”. The proposed district passport cells to be set up with the help of state governments will save people the trouble of coming all the way to the city to submit applications. Third, he highlighted the backlog in passport offices. Incomplete applications or delay in police verification reports pose problems, he said.

in completing the process early.

Urging passport officers to be “pro-active” and work under deadlines to clear the backlog, the minister suggested that officials should regularly interact with policemen to ensure that the verification reports are not held up.

Sinha mentioned rude behaviour and indifferent attitude in passport offices as some of the most frequent complaints he receives from people.

He suggested that an efficient mechanism for the redressal of public grievances be established and asked passport officers to spend at least half-an-hour everyday to observe how the staff interacts with the public. “Your mere presence will do wonders,” Sinha said, adding that telephone calls at passport offices should be answered “promptly and courteously”.

The minister also stressed on keeping passport offices clean and said an “unclean and disorderly environment breeds inefficiency”.

He issued a strong warning to corrupt officers and staff members, saying: “We will have a policy of zero tolerance towards corruption and wilful neglect in the handling of public document.”

Referring to instances where passports and other important documents were found missing from passport offices, he said effective steps to ensure security of these papers should be taken and those found guilty of neglect should be dealt with firmly.

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