Getting a passport within the stipulated timeframe of six weeks will soon be a reality. At least that is what Srikar Reddy, who took charge as Regional Passport Officer of Hyderabad two weeks ago, promised on Tuesday.
Speaking to TOI, Reddy said that his staffers were already on the job of clearing the backlog and were even putting in additional work hours in the “public interest”. The Regional Passport Office (RPO) is currently sitting on a pile of 80,000 applications that have been pending with the department for a long time. Another 50,000 are awaiting police verification while an additional 20,000 have not been cleared for the lack of proper documents.
“Both the staff associations (All-India Passport Employees Association and All-India Passport Officers Association) have agreed to work two shifts every day and even forgo their Saturday off to clear the pending applications. It is the printing and dispatch sections that are essentially putting in extra hours,” said Reddy adding, “So, instead of disposing of 2,000 applications per day, we are now clearing 3,000 per day.” As per official statistics, the Hyderabad RPO has processed 25,000 passport requests in the last 14 days. “My target is to start dispatching passports at least within six weeks, by the end of three-four months,” he added.
Further, to weed out the broker menace around the passport office, Reddy has undone the token system that has been the norm at the RPO so far. Now, applicants instead of waiting overnight to first get a token and then enter the RPO at the designated time can walk in anytime during working hours (9.15 am to 4 pm) to submit their forms. “This is necessary as it ensures that the public is not harassed by brokers (to get tokens for them) and passport applicants are not forced to wait on the streets all night for their turn,” the RPO said. In fact, he claimed that the policy was already a success as it had also helped improve the efficiency of the passport office. Instead of its previous limit of 400 applications, the RPO is now clocking in over 500 applications per day, Reddy said. He added, “We have even asked the police department to conduct raids around the area more often to keep the brokers at bay.”
Besides the token system, the newly-appointed RPO has even scrapped the Taktal facility wherein denizens could apply for a bluebook by producing three valid documents (from a list of 14 documents), for the time being. Beginning this week, only applicants with a verification certificate can apply under the Tatkal scheme. “This has been done to check the huge spurt in the number of fake-document cases. We have now sought an online database from the RTA (to verify driving licenses) and the state government (to verify ration cards). Once we get that, we will resume the service,” said Reddy who has even started online police verifications for some regions to speed up the processing of applications. “We have asked the police department of Nizamabad, Karimnagar and Kadapa (regions that see maximum applications) to send their information online so that we can save time on entering their verification reports into our files. Previously the police reports came by post and that took much longer,” the RPO reasoned and said that his office was in the process of getting all police verifications reports via the web soon.
While reassuring speedy delivery of passports soon, Reddy said he was confident that the seven Public Service Kiosks coming up in the state (one has already been inaugurated in Visakhapatnam) would put to rest the plight of passport seekers of Andhra Pradesh. TOI