This article has been modified to rectify an error in an earlier version.
The number of applications for passports has jumped to a million a month on an average, according to officials at the Ministry of External Affairs and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS).
Consequently, the 58 facilities at post offices alone have generated 350,000 passports so far this year, and the number is expected to rise as the government plans to expand the programme of using head post offices as PSKs across the country. Apart from these 58 post office passport seva kendras, there are 93 PSKs throughout the country.
In 2008, TCS
bagged the project to operate hi-tech passport seva kendras; it started pilots in 2010. Now, it has fine-tuned the service to such an extent that PSKs can be replicated — starting from software and backend technology to the colour of seva kendra buildings — anywhere within weeks.
PSKs at present employ 5,700 post office and law enforcement staff, of whom 3,000 are TCS
“Earlier, when there were only 37 passport offices across the country, people had to arrange travel from far-off places to submit their application. There was no way to track how the application was proceeding in the system. PSKs made the procedure transparent and easy to track. Post office PSKs
have brought the service even closer home,” said Rajesh Dogra, head, all-India operations and citizen service delivery, Passport Seva Project.
Of the 800-odd head post offices across the country, 236 have been identified for the first leg of post office PSK implementation.
The first phase got 86 centres, 58 of which were made functional in nine months. The remaining 28 will be deployed in the next six months, with another 149 in the pipeline.
The goal is to have at least one PSK or post office PSK within a 50 km radius, said Arun Chatterjee, joint secretary (Passport Seva Project) and chief passport officer.
In terms of opportunities, this has brought TCS
immense credibility and recognition in deploying and maintaining packaged services although they do not discuss how the financial returns have panned out.
“PSKs are among the most popular requests from ministers for their constituencies. Delegations from across the globe including Australia and the UK have been making trips to PSKs to see them in action. It is certainly a model that other departments and projects seek to replicate,” said Chatterjee.
At the initial stage, there were a few hurdles in getting the IT and regional passport office staff to work together. However, extensive training programmes and streamlined procedures helped iron out pain points.
“Apart from call centres and mobile applications, there are also Twitter teams tracking grievances on social media for passport application related issues. There is also a whole lot of analytics that helps to identify bottlenecks in the system and speed up the process. The fact that we were able to innovate on multiple levels by introducing the Passport Seva Laghu Kendra, Passport Mela and post office PSKs
to increase the outreach is a matter of great pride for us,” added Shalini Mathur, project director, Passport Seva Project.
One of the biggest achievements of the project has been the successful deployment of PSKs across the north eastern states with another nine in the pipeline in Assam to cater to the huge demand for the services, they said.