Issue passports promptly: Krishna to officers

New Delhi: Amid complaints of delay in passport issuance, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna on Tuesday exhorted officers to sort out citizens' problems "promptly" and develop a "good working relationship" with police to process applications in a speedy manner.

Krishna also told them that their work load would grow leaps and bounds in the coming years as the number of Indians travelling abroad for various purposes like education, tourism and pilgrimage was increasing day-by-day.

He said that still a large number of complaints were received about harassment of people visiting passport offices by either officials or by agents, "discourteous behaviour" at the public interface and difficulties in accessing information or in meeting with responsible officials.

"These problems should be addressed promptly. I attach very high importance to prompt, efficient and courteous manner of delivery of passport services. Passport officers are the public face of the Ministry of External Affairs," he told the officers, who have come from across the country.

Noting that there is lot of pendency in passport delivery services largely due to pending police verifications, he asked the officers to coordinate and have a "good working relationship" with police commissioners so that the police verifications can be expedited.

"I would also like that this pendency be eliminated, at least in those cases where police verifications have been received, by the end of the year," Krishna said.

Stressing on the need to improving the public grievance redressal mechanisms, Krishna said priority should be accorded to increase accountability within the system so that grievances and complaints were indeed attended to.

"You must also ensure accessibility to citizens in your offices in a systematic manner by way of designating an 'Open Day' for addressing the complaints received from the public. It is important that these services are widely disseminated for citizens to take maximum advantage," he said.

On Haj pilgrims, Krishna asked the officers to take measures for opening separate counters for them, hold special Passport Adalats and liaison with police authorities to obtain police reports on priority basis.

He also said Passport Adalats should help deal with all pending old cases.

Calling the Passport Seva Project a success, he said 30 out of 77 such Kendras planned have become operational and that he would like to see the operationalisation of the remaining of them by March next year.

In his address, Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai asked passport officers to be prepared to carry out operations like the one when Indians were evacuated from strife-torn Libya.

"The world is full of troubled spots. We may have problems in the future. So we need to build an interface to meet such needs. Passport officers should be equipped to handle such situations," he said.

On complaints of poor quality of paper used in passports, he said the MEA has written to the Finance Ministry, which has assured that an action plan has been put in place to sort out the issue.

Chief Passport Officer Muktesh Pardeshi said the India Security Press, which prints the documents, has agreed to send a delegation, if need be, to Canada and other countries to study the material used by them and the additional security features.