Passport office staff demonstrate against outsourcing

New Delhi, March 2 (Calcutta Tube) Employees of passport offices across the country Tuesday demonstrated for an hour during the lunch break, protesting against the government’s move to involve a private firm in the management of passport services.

‘We had a demonstration during lunch time at all the 37 passport offices today. We will continue this tomorrow too,’ president of All India Passport employees association Raj Kapoor told IANS.

The external affairs ministry has been trying to launch a project, Passport Seva, to improve efficiency in passport offices by roping in the private sector. IT major Tata Consultancy Services has been given the contract for the project, but its launch has so far been delayed due to ‘technical glitches’.

It is now learnt that the pilot project is expected to start this month in Bangalore.

A delegation of the employees association had met External Affairs minister S.M. Krishna and his junior colleague Shashi Tharoor last month to register their opposition to the project.

‘We have a basic issue that the control of the software must be in the hands of the government employees. It should not be in hands of a private organization,’ said Kapoor.

The government has said sensitive sections of the passport software would be protected behind a security firewall.

Kapoor also said that the employees may go on a two-day strike from Thursday if their demands were not met. ‘If our issues are not resolved by then, we will go on a token strike on March 4 and 5.’

Acknowledging that the public would be discomfited by the strike, Kapoor argued that the people should also understand the conditions under which they have been working.

‘With the same amount of staff, the number of passports that we are issuing has increased from 27 lakhs to over 50 lakhs in six years,’ he said, adding that the lack of adequate staff had affected work.

The employees also say that some of the existing passport offices should not be closed down as per the project roadmap.

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