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Pilot passport project to start in Bangalore Friday

New Delhi, May 26 (Calcutta Tube) Nearly an year behind schedule, the pilot phase of the much-delayed Passport Seva Project will be launched May 28 in Bangalore, an official said Wednesday.

‘The minister (of external affairs) will be launching the four Passport Seva Kendras (PSK) in Karnataka May 28,’ said external affairs ministry spokesperson Vishnu Prakash here.

The Rs.1,000 crore project was contracted to Tata Consultancy Services in October 2008, to help streamline the passport issuance process. It was first scheduled to begin in June 2009.

There had been a number of glitches detected in the manufacture of the software, which has now been relatively smoothened out.

From May 21, the old regional passport office has been closed down and applicants told to apply at the swanky PSKs in Bangalore. In Karnataka, four PSK will be opened – two in Bangalore and one each in Hubli and Mangalore.

In June, three more PSKs will be opened in Punjab. ‘There will be seven PSKs which will be part of the pilot project which will run for three months,’ said MEA Joint Secretary (consular, passport and visa) A. Manickam.

He pointed out that the vision of the Passport Seva Project was to improve the facilities for the public at the centres.

‘Right now, people may stand in queues for hours. But, at the PSK, we think that a person may finish their work within 45 minutes,’ said Manickam.

After the pilot project ends, the rest of the PSKs will be rolled out across the country. ‘There are 77 passport seva Kendras to be set up. We are looking at a target of end of financial year,’ he said.

The ‘brain’ of these 77 passport centres is the Network Operations Centre set up in south Delhi.

‘This will be the place from where we will be able to monitor the functioning of all the centres,’ he said.

The time taken to issue passports will be less than the current system, but there is still expected to be significant delay due to the police verification.

‘There will be some saving of time, as now the applications for verifications will be sent electronically. We are setting up two computers at each district headquarters, Manickam said.

The number of passports issued has been increased by 18 percent every year. In 2003, 25 lakh passports were issued, which increased to 60 lakh in 2009.

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