By Devanik Saha
It took 71 days to issue an Indian passport in 2014, nearly three times as long as the 24 days fixed by the government, and the police took twice as long as they should (42 days instead of 21) to verify applicantsÂ’ information, according to a recent audit report from the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG).
No more than 21 per cent of passport applications were processed that year by regional passport offices (RPOs) within three working days, as they should be after police verification. The proportion of passports processed in time fell from 26 per cent in 2013, the CAG report said.
The audit of 37 regional passport offices (RPOs) was conducted between June 2012 and August 2015.
In 2008, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), an information-technology company, signed a deal with the Ministry of External Affairs to speed up passport issue.
The average time for regional passport offices (RPOs) to process passport applications, after police verification, increased from nine days – against the prescribed three days – in 2013 to 16 days in 2014, more than five times longer than it should be.
The national average for issue of normal passports (police verification + processing) was 71 days in 2014 against the total prescribed time of 24 days (three days for processing applications + 21 days for police verification).
Â“Henceforth, normal passport applications of all first-time applicants furnishing Aadhaar, Electoral Photo Identity Card (EPIC), Permanent Account Number (PAN) and an affidavit will be processed on post-police verification basis, enabling faster issue of passport, without payment of any additional fees,Â” said this statement from the Ministry of External Affairs earlier this year.
Passports issued increased 54 per cent over 5 years
Passports issued increased by 54 per cent, from 5.2 million in 2010 to 8.1 million in 2014.
Average police verification time 42 days, twice as long as it should be
In 2014, police verification of applicants, a key step in issuing new passports, took 42 days, double the time fixed for the process, 21 days, the CAG audit found. This was seven days quicker than in 2013.
The average time declined to 36 days for 2015 for the period for which data were available, January to June.
In Delhi, the police verification process took 12 days, compared to 265 days (9 months approximately) in Assam.
The CAG report also mentioned that the delay in police verification report in some states and union territories was because there was no electronic connectivity with passport offices. As many as 35 per cent of police verifications took more than 180 days.
Earlier this month, the Delhi High Court recommended that the Centre Â“revisitÂ” its system of applicant checks, noting that even the government admitted to Â“lacunae in the systemÂ” that allowed the use of false or forged documents.
Passport offices received as many as 84,647 complaints in 2014, 63,831 (75 per cent) of which were addressed; 20,816 complaints (25 per cent) remained unattended until the end of the year.
(09.06.2016 – In arrangement with IndiaSpend.org, a data-driven, non-profit, public interest journalism platform. Devanik Saha is a New Delhi-based freelance journalist. The views expressed are those of IndiaSpend. The author can be contacted at email@example.com)