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Online passport hits offline police hurdle

Jayajit Ghosh had applied online for a passport in April thinking he would get one within 45 days. More than six months later, he is still waiting for it because the technologically challenged district police won’t adopt a simple online system of transmitting an applicant’s personal particulars form.

Software engineer Ghosh, a resident of Khardah, isn’t alone. Across Bengal, applicants are being made to wait months for their passports for no fault of theirs. The introduction of the online system to make the process seamless and save time has apparently made a difference only to applicants living in areas under Calcutta and Bidhannagar City police.

Sources said only two of the state’s six commissionerates and none of the 19 district police headquarters had started online transfer of verification forms, a process meant to save at least 15 days between applying for a passport and having it delivered.

The verification form is a part of the passport application that needs to be sent to the police headquarters of the district where the applicant lives.

Forms now go by snail mail to the offices of the superintendents of police or commissioners that haven’t gone online yet. They send the forms to the relevant local police stations. A verified form returns to the police chief’s office, which sends it back to the regional passport office by post.

So what does it take for these police headquarters to switch from offline to online? Just a dongle similar to the pendrive-like device that gives your laptop wireless access to the Internet.

“If only the police would fill up the relevant form and submit it to the RPO, they would get dongles to securely transfer the verification forms online,” a source said.

Regional passport officer R. Sivakumar said the process would be seamless with a little co-operation from the police. “We did organise a training stint for police officers from the districts (as part of the proposed transition)….But we have not received any response from any of the districts or commissionerates except Bidhannagar. The Bidhannagar commissionerate has started online transfer of police verification forms. Calcutta has been doing it for months.”

Online transfer should have started in Bengal almost a year ago when the state’s first Passport Seva Kendra was set up in Calcutta in December 2011.

O.P. Gupta, the inspector-general of Intelligence Bureau, said a manpower shortage might be the reason for the Howrah, Barrackpore, Siliguri and Asansol commissionerates failing to go online.

Bidhannagar commissionerate, which is the exception, can vouch for the efficiency of the online process. Neeloo Sherpa Chakraborty, the deputy commissioner of the detective department, said: “The dongles arrived within a few days of our submitting the forms. TCS officials assisted us in getting used to them. There was no hitch.”

Who/what do you blame for the police’s aversion to technology? Tell ttmetro@abpmail.com