Getting a Passport at Snail’s Pace!

The government has recently fixed a deadline of 30 days for issuing passports after the applications are filed, in an attempt to speed up the process amid rising complaints about the months-long waiting period for the document.

According to these instructions, a new passport should be issued within 30 days of applying, the applications for reissuing of passports should be processed in 15 days while the "Tatkal" (a premium service that expedites the passport processing) applications should be prepared within one to seven days. The government also said that all regional passport offices would have walk-in facilities for document submission.

However, the move is not expected to benefit the citizens especially the Kashmiris much as India lacks infrastructure facilities needed to cater to the heavy demand for passports that has arisen in the recent years.

The agony and the pain, Kashmiris are going through, whenever they have to apply for a passport is a nightmare in itself. There are a lot of procedures for poor Kashmiris, which not only months but take several years to get their desired passports. Each time, I visited the concerned police station to get my verification done; I have to shell out money to the CID personnel to make the verification done, said Tauseef Ahmad Malik, a teacher by profession.

Obtaining a passport is an ordeal for a common Kashmiri nowadays. Thousands of Kashmiris face difficulties in getting a passport, as the Regional Passport Office in Srinagar struggle to process thousands of applications, giving the middlemen ample opportunity to exploit the situation and take advantage of the needy people.

"Getting a passport is very difficult. One has to wait for weeks for submitting the required documents for verification. The queues at the Passport office in Srinagar is so long that we have to wait several days and hours to get to the counter," said Muhammed Aslam, an applicant who visited the passport office located at the busy Boulevard three days in a row to submit documents for verification.

A passport official stated that the demand for passports has increased from 50 to 86 percent in various passport offices in the last five years.

The Ministry of External Affairs under which the Indian Passport Organization functions initiated a new project two years ago, in collaboration with a private partner Tata Consultancy Services, to streamline the process and bring in transparency. Though the system worked fine initially, the rising demand in the last two years has derailed the system, leaving a lot of scope for the middlemen to make money.

"Documents needed for verification varied each time I visited the counter depending on the personnel in the Passport Office. There is no clarity among the staff regarding the documents. I had to pay three visits to clear my application," said Tasir Rasool, a software engineer.

"We had to take passport for myself and my two children. To take an appointment we had to visit four times and spend hours in queue. I could get the documents verified only in my fourth visit. For my children it was a harrowing experience," said Shazia Bhat, another applicant.

It’s high time for the state government and the concerned officials to take a serious note of those rowdy personnel who are making money out of it by giving sleepless nights to the common masses in Kashmir.

Shoaib Bhat

Muhammed Ali Road

Near Khoja Masjid, Dongri, Mumbai

<[email protected]

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