In an effort to provide timely and transparent passport related services in smaller cities in east and north-eastern part of the country, the ministry of external affairs has decided to set up 16 Passport Seva Laghu Kendras (PSLKs) by the end of next year in the region.
“After the full roll-out of the planned 77 Passport Seva Kendras (PSKs), it has been felt that some regions especially North Eastern States were inadequately covered. So it has been decided to establish 16 PSLKs across these parts of the country by the end of next year,” chief passport officer Muktesh Kumar Pardeshi said here.
However, Unlike the Passport Seva Kendras (PSKs), which were set up by the ministry in collaboration with private partner Tata Consultancy Services, the PSLKs will not be under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) mode but wholly built and operated by the government.
“We will not be getting man-power or physical infrastructure from TCS for Laghu Kendras. We are getting additional man-power for the same and also, will be appealing the respective state government to provide help in this respect,” he added.
Apart from north-eastern states like Sikim and Manipur, there are proposals to set up Passport Seva Laghu Kendras (PSLKs) in Siliguri and Kharagpur in West Bengal, to reduce the pressure on Passport Seva Kendra in Kolkata, which is the busiest centre in the country in terms of handling of applications.
He said the ministry was also mulling to set up more PSKs in the next few years. “Annually 7 million passports are issued and the year-on-year growth rate is 10 per cent. Keeping this in mind the government is mulling setting up more such Kendras,” Pardeshi said.
He also noted that West Bengal is lagging behind all other states in the country in providing timely police verification of passport applications.
“The average time taken for police verification of passport applications in West Bengal is more than three months and in that regard it is perhaps behind all other states,” said Pardeshi.
The ministry has set up a benchmark of three weeks as the ideal time for such verifications.
Incidentally. states like Bihar and Uttarakhand have enacted laws providing penalty for police officers who delay the verification process.