Monday, 30th October 2017

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Net gain for Tatkal passport

Online verification to end hassle of chasing officers

By Monalisa Chaudhuri
  • Published 12.05.15

A set of three identity documents, at least one of them verifiable over the Internet, would spare Tatkal passport applicants the hassle of getting a authentication certificate from "a competent authority", according to a new proposal.

An Aadhaar card, along with two identity documents from a list of 16 mentioned in the official website of the Passport Seva portal, would suffice to support a Tatkal application if the person fails to procure the said certificate, the ministry of external affairs (MEA) has recommended.

The first step towards making the Tatkal passport procedure easier yet foolproof was a pilot project launched in Delhi last month to link Aadhaar data with the Passport Seva system. Ranchi and five more regional passport offices across India - Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chandigarh, Chennai and Vizag - joined the network on Monday, enabling passport officials to check a person's Aadhaar details online.

Regional passport officer, Ranchi, Sanatan confirmed that they had had a trial run on Saturday and officially joined the network on Monday. "The Aadhaar number of an applicant on his form is now leading us to a link where we can download the original card for verification," he said.

Finding an official authorised to vouch for an applicant's credentials is the toughest part of applying for a Tatkal passport, more so after several bureaucrats have been blacklisted for allegedly issuing false verification certificates.

"If anyone submits an endorsement letter from officers of SP-rank, director of any department or deputy commissioner and so on, we demand a copy of the official's current ID and the letter should be drafted on his/her letterhead. Often these authentication certificates are forged. So, we write back to officers concerned for reconfirmation before processing Tatkal passport," the regional passport officer explained the cumbersome process.

Sanatan agreed that integration of the Aadhaar database with the Passport Seva system would have multiple benefits. "We will be able to verify the credentials of an applicant online through Aadhaar and two other identity documents matching those mentioned in the list. Once that happens, we don't need Annexure F (the format for a verification certificate) for a Tatkal application," he added.

Data regarding other identity documents such as a voter ID would be made available to passport officials digitally, enabling quick verification of Tatkal passport applications.

EPIC (elector's photo identity card) data can currently be verified on the EC website but it needs to be made available to passport officials over a protected network. "More the number of Internet-verifiable documents, greater the authenticity of the applicant's information. It also reduces the chances of forgery," a Passport Seva functionary said.

ID cards of government employees, SC/ST/OBC certificates and property documents are some of the others mentioned in the list of 16.

The MEA had previously tried to replace the verification certificate with a bunch of identity documents but the plan was aborted after multiple cases of forgery were reported by regional passport offices.

Annexure F is currently mandatory to back up a Tatkal application although the official website mentions that "any three documents" from a list of 16 can be presented in lieu of a verification certificate.

Many applicants are confused by web information. "It is mentioned that three identity documents can replace Annexure F for a Tatkal application. I took the necessary documents along to appear for my interview at the Passport Seva Kendra, only to be told that Annexure F was mandatory," an applicant complained.

An official in the passport wing of the MEA pleaded helplessness. "The previous initiative to make the Tatkal procedure easier was never called off officially, which is why the information on the website hasn't been altered either."

The official said Internet-verifiable identity documents would remove any doubt passport officials might have about a Tatkal application.

Additional reporting by A.S.R.P. Mukesh