No seva at passport kendra

The project has inherent gaps which may not be filled by short-term steps taken by MEA


Pratap Vikram Singh | June 21, 2012

To undo the damage caused due to the poor design and implementation of Passport Seva Kendra (PSK) project, the ministry of external affairs (MEA) has announced a slew of measures, as reported in one of the dailies. According to MEA, this would help PSKs in regaining the trust of people apparently lost failing to realise its own vision of delivering passport related services in a "timely, transparent, more accessible and reliable manner".

The damage-control step, coming close on the heels of a media campaign to expose the performance of PSKs, includes increasing the number of appointments at PSK counters by 500 and keeping the Kendras open even on Saturday. Increasing transparency through posting information on the specific documents which citizens are required to carry with them to the Kendras, opening a separate Kendra for 'tatkal' applications and providing a token facility for a family as a whole are few other steps which the passport authority has proposed.   

The proposed steps could better the situation in the short term. However, if the system has to really benefit the citizens in a sustained manner, it has to have the scalability, robustness and adaptability to address the challenges. For example, there has been a gap in the understanding on the number of applications received every day for passport, which has led to the continuance of citizen's reliance on touts. They promise to get the work done in a shorter duration. Though the situation might improve by the proposed increase in the number of applications, it may not continue for long if the system is not scalable enough to handle the constant increase in applications traffic.

The current system also lacks robustness. The citizens complain of having required standing in queue for hours. The delay in service delivery, thus caused, defeats the very purpose of deployment of e-government solutions. The system should be robust enough to process the applications in a timely fashion.

Also, the system should be in complete coherence with the changes taking place in the administrative field. For example, according to one of the news reports, a resident in Kolkata had to renew his passport. Meanwhile, the jurisdiction of the police station (in his locality) changed. In the revised jurisdiction, his house fell under the work sphere of a neighbouring police station. So he couldn't fill the form because the system (software) was not in sync with the administrative change.

Since the roll out of its pilot in early 2011, the PSK project has been a spectacular failure across almost all of the 77 centres operationalised so far by the ministry. The ministry has had implemented the project in a public private partnership with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS).  

Soon after its implementation in city of Delhii, Kolkata, Bangalore, Gurgaon, Lucknow and Varanasi, media reports started pouring in about the difficulties that citizens faced in various stages of applying for a passport - from filling up the online forms, carrying documents according to the whims of the people manning  the PSKs, waiting in queue for hours, to finally getting a passport.

Additionally, the harassment of citizens at the hands of touts has continued. The new system, which was expected to eliminate the role of touts, has created new space (for example, taking appointments) for income generation.



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