Interview

Redefining Passport Seva : Tanmoy Chakrabarty, Tata Consultancy Services, India

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Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) would be playing a role of technology provider in Passport Seva Project. What would that role encompass?

The Passport Seva Project, based on a Public Private Partnership (PPP) model, aims to provide passport-related services to Indian citizens in a speedy, convenient and transparent manner. While the sovereign and fiduciary function of granting and issuing passport remains with Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Government of India, TCS will be the technology and operations enabling partner in this project.

The project conservatively estimated at over INR 1,000 crore will be implemented using a Build-Own-Operate-Transfer or BOOT framework with pilot projects operation commencing within 7 months. The countrywide roll-out of the Passport Seva Project will take place within 19 months. During implementation and roll out phases 77 Passport Facilitation Centres would be established across the country in a phased manner. The programme will operate for six years thereafter with end-to-end responsibility of implementing and operating this project resting with TCS.

The project implementation phase of 19 months includes conceptualisation, design, and implementation of Passport Application; roll out of Passport Facilitation Centres (PFCs) and National Call Centre along with testing and certification as well as operations based on a Service Oriented Approach. During the period of contract TCS will be primarily paid on the basis of passport services rendered to citizens, although a small amount would be paid upfront for establishing the basic infrastructure. Once the project is implemented, citizens would be able to apply for passport related services online or visit nearest PFC where their passport application will be accepted and processed. The new duration of processing of passports at MEA’s end would be three working days. This excludes the time taken for verifying address and citizenship of applicants which is required for a normal passport and same is applicable for Tatkal cases as well.

The Passport Seva Project would digitize the entire passport services lifestyle and allow on-line filing of applications, thus would be a boon for e-Governance. Still a sizable chunk of Indian population is illiterate How would this segment of people leverage from this project?

A proposal to provide assisted access for illiterate passport applicants is currently under consideration. For a nominal charge, these people can have their form filled by people available for this purpose at PFCs. However, under the current scenario, the increase in the number of places where citizens can apply for a passport physically, itself is set to mitigate the problems of illiterate citizens. Further, compared to the current four working hours of most of the passport offices, the PFCs will operate for eight hours on each working day offering extended access.

When can citizens expect the role out of the services and will it be in a phased manner?

The countrywide roll-out of the Passport Seva Project will take place within 19 months and the government will open 77 Passport Facilitation Centres across the country in a phased manner. The Pilot Passport Seva Kendras (PSKs) at Bangalore and Chandigarh are scheduled to be operational by the beginning of March 2009. After ensuring success of the operation of the pilot locations, the full project i.e. the setting up of all the 77 PSKs and up-gradation of the present 37 Passport Offices are scheduled to be completed by the first week of January 2010. 

Will the new passports be biometric enabled?

No, the new passports will not be biometric enabled. However, the passport system will be biometric enabled. It should be noted that the Ministry of External Affairs has also started issuing e-Passports (biometric passports), in the diplomatic and official categories since June 2008. Further, the extension of the same for the general categories will be much faster in view of the systematic roll-out.

What are other project in the pipeline related to e-Governance?

e-Biz project for which the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP) under the Commerce Ministry. It is a project aimed at facilitating interaction between the government and corporates through a single portal. TCS is also in the process of submitting bids for a new project to be launched by the Defence Ministry. There is an immense opportunity in the e-Governance sector in India. Some of the states like Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and others have undertaken huge e-Governance programmes while others are in the process of doing so. In addition to this, Mission Mode Projects under the National eGovernance Plan (NeGP) also provides a window of opportunity.

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