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Passport in hand, back in queue to answer query

A college student misses his classes, a doctor is forced to cancel all her appointments for the day in a New Alipore clinic and an exporter reluctantly keeps his Park Street office shut on a weekday.

They are among thousands of Tatkal passport holders who have had to line up at the passport office on Brabourne Road in response to showcause notices issued by the external affairs ministry for “suppression of facts”.

Some seem to have the answers asked of them, others are clueless about why they are under the scanner.

“My Tatkal passport was issued in 2012. I received a notice last month citing suppression of facts and an adverse police report. I had applied for my passport online and here I am in a queue for four hours to reach an officer who will tell me where I went wrong,” said an exporter who was there some days ago.

When his turn finally came, the officer at the counter told the exporter that he had been summoned because the police couldn’t verify his credentials.“Contrary to what was mentioned in the notice I received, the officer clarified that there was no suppression of facts on my part. The adverse report was apparently generated because the police did not find me home. If the police do not come with prior intimation, do they expect a working person to be at home during work hours?” he fumed.

More than 8,000 other Tatkal passport holders across Bengal — 2,000 of them in Calcutta — have received similar showcause notices, reviving the days of snaking queues outside the Brabourne Road office when applications used to be submitted manually.

The reasons for adverse police reports range from unavailability of the applicant when the police visited his/her home for verification to a mismatch between the stated place of birth and the current address of the applicant. But the showcause notices do not specify the discrepancies.

“You are called upon to provide a suitable explanation and submit a fresh application with correct details. Please note that you are required to furnish a proper explanation regarding the circumstances under which you had suppressed the material information in your passport application and obtained the above said passport….Also state why action should not be taken to impound the passport number XXXX dated XXXX under section 10(3)(b) of the Passport Act, 1967 and Section 12(1)(b) of the Passport Act, 1967,” states the standard notice.

Geetika Srivastava, the regional passport officer in Calcutta, said there was no reason to panic at the sight of such a notice. “A showcause letter doesn’t always mean that the passport will be impounded. A passport can be impounded only if there is any suppression of facts.” Sources said 900 more such letters were waiting to be despatched.