New Delhi, (IANS) Amid reports of delays in online applications for passports and the growing logjam, the external affairs ministry Friday announced that passport offices in seven cities – Delhi, Ghaziabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Lucknow and Amritsar – will remain open this Saturday-Sunday.
The weekend will see Passport Seva Kendras (PSKs) in seven cities accepting around 28,000-30,000 applications.
The ministry also defended what it called the citizen-centric online application system and said it has successfully completed setting up and operationalisation of 77 PSKs in the country.
“In order to address unprecedented demand for passport services during these months, the Ministry of External Affairs has decided to open Regional Passport Offices, including Passport Seva Kendras under their jurisdiction (Delhi, Ghaziabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Lucknow and Amritisar), on June 23 and 24,” the ministry said.
The applications for all passport related services “other than tatkaal” shall be accepted during the ‘Passport Mela’, said the ministry.
Taking note of reports in the media about applicants being fleeced by touts and middlemen for uploading applications and arranging appointments, the ministry clarified that the appointment system has been introduced in keeping to make government services accessible to the common man through common service delivery outlets.
The process is aimed at ensuring efficiency, transparency and reliability of such services at affordable costs, it said.
The ministry said it is improving governance in passport offices by focussing on citizen-centricity, service orientation and transparency.
The online application and appointment system at the PSKs was aimed at cutting down waiting time for the applicants, but the system has not worked for hundreds of applicants due to technical glitches and other factors.
Under the new system, if appointments are not available and the passport is required urgently, walk-in facility can be allowed by the concerned regional passport officer.
To tackle the surging demand for passports, the ministry has created an extra 400 appointments slots. With around 25-30 per cent of people who are given appointments now showing up at designated time, the ministry is also exploring the possibility of fining the offenders.
Last year, the PSKs serviced around 7 million passports and passport-related requests. The ministry has ambitious plan for 100 million passports over the next ten years.