December 2018 | 1250 words | 5-minute read
It has been more than 10 years since Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) took on the challenge of revamping the passport issuance system in the country, under the Government of India’s (GOI) national e-Governance plan (NeGP) to improve the delivery of public services.
Today, the Passport Seva Project (PSP), implemented by TCS in a public-private partnership mode, services more than 130,000 citizens every single day through various Passport Seva Kendra (PSK) citizen touchpoints.
If you have visited a PSK for issuance or renewal of your passport, you would have realised that the entire process is transparent, seamless and effortless, especially if all your documents are in place. You take an appointment, visit the selected PSK in your city or town with the required documents and complete the procedure, including capturing of biometric information and photograph at the PSK. The Aadhaar card (a 12-digit unique identity number for Indian residents) database is used to validate the applicant’s credentials. In the next steps, Passport Seva integrates with the state police for physical verification of the applicant’s credentials and with India Post for delivery of the passport document.
For normal applications, the required formalities like police verification are completed within a couple of days and the passport is with the applicant in 7 to 10 days. A Tatkaal passport, on the other hand, is dispatched within 1-3 days of the applicant visiting the PSK.
PSP, one of the 26 Mission Mode Projects under the NeGP, was undertaken by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), to fulfil the citizens’ increased demand for speedier issuance of passport following globalisation and the growing economy. Until then, the lengthy application process required the assistance of agents for procuring a passport. It was virtually impossible to get a passport without having to devote considerable time, energy and money.
The road to a revamp
In 2008, TCS was selected as the implementation partner, through a competitive bidding process, to revamp the passport issuance process. The first step towards achieving a seamless experience was to simplify passport rules, which included changes in the documentation process after evaluating feedback. Factoring the advent of the internet, smartphones and big data, TCS was quick to incorporate these technologies to make the passport issuance process simple, efficient and seamless.
Today, the entire process has been digitised. You can submit the passport application form through the GOI’s official website. The site has all information, including frequently asked questions, to enable you to complete all the application formalities and schedule an appointment at the PSK in your vicinity. From 2.6 million passports issued in the whole of the year 2000, the monthly submission of passport applications has crossed the 1 million mark at the time of publishing.
An optional value-added SMS service was introduced to enable the applicant to track the status of their application at various stages.
An app for accessibility
Earlier this year, the mPassport Seva mobile app was launched to provide anytime, anywhere accessibility to the Passport Seva Online portal through your smartphone. The app supports the online registration and application process and enables the state police verification officials to directly capture the police verification report into the system digitally.
“An extensive networked environment of connected offices and external stakeholders, strong digital presence along with mobile app and partnership with other departments such as Post Offices has increased the outreach for applicants, making the services more accessible and convenient to avail. State-of-the-art PSKs with modern infrastructure, user-friendly amenities along with citizen-friendly measures such as unique design philosophy, unidirectional flow, and so on, have added to a uniform and enhanced citizen experience,” says Rajesh Dogra, project director (Passport Seva project), TCS.
Digitisation of the end-to-end passport issuance process has reduced paper work considerably. The simplified process ensures that fewer annexures are required along with the application. Going forward, the government is taking steps to further make the process paperless like the police verification process to PSK; the digital verification report can be sent online to PSK.
As the PKS data centre’s are operational 24x7, several green data centre initiatives have been undertaken to reduce electricity consumption and improve the data centre’s power usage effectiveness.
To bring passport services closer to applicants, Passport Seva camps are organised in towns and cities that do not have PSKs in the vicinity. To ensure that demand matches capacity, regional passport office jurisdictions have been realigned. Earlier, applicants could apply for their passports only at one of the PSKs falling within the jurisdiction of the regional passport office in their place of residence. The government has extended the outreach of passport services through a network of Post Offices Passport Seva Kendra (POPSK), wherein the post office premises issued for the delivery of passport-related services to citizens. Till date, 224 POPSKs work as PSKs, providing passport services to citizens, thus making it truly citizen-centric.
More POPSKs are envisaged so that passport-related services can be delivered to all citizen within a 50 km radius from their place of residence. Meanwhile, 24x7 call centre operations in 17 languages were set up along with e-mail-based helpdesk to manage citizens’ queries and grievances. This centre handles close to 18,000 calls daily.
All these measures have resulted in the citizen satisfaction index at 99.8%.
Creating employment opportunities
Today, the Passport Seva project has more than 3,000 staff from TCS and 2,000+ personnel from MEA. TCS has hired more than 2,000+ persons from towns where PSKs are located. This has improved family earnings and social status of the personnel, especially those from economically weaker sections. More than 45% of the total hires in the project, including at senior positions, are women.
Currently, all Indian missions abroad are being integrated with the Passport Seva project, with initiatives planned such as introduction of e-Passport for ordinary passport, integration of databases like crime and criminal tracking network & systems, and high-speed passport printing. Today, the number of passport processing locations has increased to over 300 with 39 passport issuance authorities, 94 PSKs and 200+ POPSKs.
As part of the strategy to promote “One Tata” philosophy, PSP has also tied up for sale of protective passports covers that are sourced from Tata International Limited through the PSKs.
“We are employing automation and digital initiatives along with the use of latest technologies including artificial intelligence and complex algorithms to facilitate quick issuance of passports. All this would catapult the Indian passport system to the next level,” says Rajesh. With encouraging overall feedback, the Passport Seva project demonstrates how innovative use of information and communication technology can transform the way citizens receive services from government institutions.
- Over 90 million application records were migrated from the earlier system
- Over 6.42 crore applications have been processed in the PSP system till date
- Close to 50,000 citizens are serviced daily in PSKs and citizen satisfaction stands at 99.8%
- 24x7 Call Centre supports 17 languages and handles close to 18,000 calls daily
- The online portal receives over 2 crore hits per day, while the mobile app receives over 18,000 hits per day
- From 26 lakh passports issued in 2000, the monthly submission of passports has crossed the 1 million mark in 2018
- More than 300 passport processing locations with 39 passport issuance authorities, 94PSKs and 200+ POPSKs