Ending the long wait for passport : The Tribune India

Ending the long wait for passport

Ending the long wait for passport

Photo for representational purpose only. - File photo

Sanjay Kundu

A PASSPORT is a must for international travel; it’s a proof of our citizenship. For Indians, it opens up windows of opportunities to the outside world. However, obtaining a passport in India is a major challenge. The bottleneck is the critical police verification report (PVR), on the basis of which the passports are issued by the Regional Passport Office (RPO).

I first comprehended this challenge when my sister, who was studying at Panjab University, got married and had to join her husband in the US. Around that time, terrorism was at its peak and if one happened to be in Chandigarh to apply for a passport, one had to get clearance from the police and CID of Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh. To compound matters, my sister’s family name was to be changed to ‘Kaul’, a homophone of ‘Kaur’; the latter was under intense scrutiny in those days. My father had to do a lot of legwork and meet many senior officers to be able to even get the file for the passport processed. It took almost six months for my sister’s passport to arrive. With the blue document in our hands, we heaved a sigh of relief.

When I took over as the police chief of Himachal Pradesh, I found that it was taking 50 days on an average for the PVRs in the hill state. Mindful that this was a great citizen service that the police deliver, I asked my officers why it couldn’t be done in 24 hours. After initial protestations, they said they could attempt to see if it was even likely. Working through, we realised that in the digital world, this was possible without much challenge. With no extra manpower or resource deployment, we ensured the issuance of PVRs in one working day so that the RPO in Shimla issued the passports in a week’s time. I have been monitoring the progress in this regard.

I remember watching a programme on Doordarshan, when Bali Ram Bhagat was the foreign minister. To a question by the interviewer on why it took so long to make passports in India, his answer was that even in the most advanced countries like the US, it took three weeks to obtain a passport.

Last month, I was invited by the Ministry of External Affairs to attend the Regional Passport Officers’ Conference in New Delhi. It was an honour to receive the national award in the states’ category from the External Affairs Minister and hear the compliment that despite being a hill state, with a very challenging topography, we were doing police verifications in a day. Little did I know that 1.4 crore passports are made annually.

Ease of getting a passport is an indication of ‘ease of governance’ and ‘ease of doing business’. For me, it is a matter in line with the philosophy of ‘less government, more governance’.

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