The passport office on Ashiana-Digha road in Patna. Telegraph picture
Residents of far-flung districts will no longer have to travel to the state capital to avail of passport services; nine new Passport Seva Kendras will soon come up across Bihar.
Residents of Madhubani, Samastipur, Supaul, Nawada, Munger, Begusarai, Buxar, East Champaran and Gaya will just need to hop across to the respective head post office to avail of all the facilities - right from applying for a fresh passport to collecting the passport.
"The new Passport Seva Kendras will become functional in the next three months," postmaster-general of Bihar (east) Anil Kumar told The Telegraph on Sunday.
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj had announced on Saturday that the Centre was working on a plan to have centres across the country so that no one needs to travel more than 50km to obtain a passport.
Bihar had only one passport centre - in Patna - till February this year, forcing residents of the entire state to travel to the capital to get their passports made.
Residents of Kishanganj in northeast Bihar, for example, had to travel around 400km for a passport while for those in Kaimur in the southwest, it entails a journey of around 200km.
The situation marginally improved in March this year after five more passport centres came up in Bhagalpur, Purnea, Siwan, Bettiah and Muzaffarpur head post offices. The Bettiah passport centre also became functional this month.
Shashank Shekhar, a resident of Motihari in East Champaran district, was thrilled to hear about the central government's proposal.
"I was not getting my passport made as travelling to Patna and getting it done seemed a daunting task. Now, I will get it made in my own district," he said.
According to the provisions made by the Centre, the newly set up passport centres will be opened in "camp mode". It means officials from the passport office in Patna and those of Tata Consultancy Services will stay there for three months from the date of opening to train post-office personnel who will eventually run the centres.
The external affairs ministry provides infrastructure for the centres and the local post office provides the space for running it.
"The response of people to the PSKs set up in post-offices has been very good," said the post-master general.
"At present, these PSKs provide 50 to 60 passports per day. The people's response can be assessed from the fact that at the Siwan PSK, one gets an appointment almost 20 days after the submission of the application for necessary biometric verification."
He also revealed that in the long term, there is a plan to set up a passport centre at all of Bihar's 34 head post offices.
Lakhisarai, Sheikhpura, Arwal and Sheohar are four of the 38 Bihar districts that don't have a head post-office.