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Passport in three days

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Citizens can now get a new passport within three days of police verification, or on the same day under "tatkal" scheme, as the Ministry of External Affairs on Monday signed an agreement with Tata Consultancy Services.

Under the project, applicants will get new passports within three days of police verification while under the tatkal scheme the travel document will be made available to the applicant on the same day.

TCS, which bagged the Rs 1,000 crore e-governance project, will open 77 new fully computerised Passport Seva Kendras across the country by January 2010.

The Government aims to nearly quadruple the number of passport counters to 1,250 from the current 345 and bring the entire process of issuing the travel document online. It also wants to cut down the waiting time to 45 minutes for an applicant.

Bangalore and Chandigarh will be the first cities to get the new Passport Seva Kendras by June 2009 which will be functional on a pilot basis.

The Government has outsourced support functions like improving citizen interface, managing technology and call centres training to TCS.

The Central Passport Organisation issued over 50 lakh passports last year and the number is likely to double in the next three years.

For the full text, click on:
http://in.news.yahoo.com/48/20081014/804/tnl-now-get-your-passport-in-3-days_1.html

A most exciting development, indeed.

Now, when something as critical as issual of passport, particularly in today's terrorism-threatened world, can be outsourced, why not the preparation and maintenance of voters' list, as also issual of voter ID cards? Today's inaccuracy levels of the order of over 50% across the country (as admitted by the EC itself), is causing serious subversion of the democratic process even at the very first stage itself, apart from posing a serious threat to national security. Correction of this anomalous situation has to be the first priority of the country if it wants to call itself a democracy. For more, click on:

http://praja.in/blog/murali772/2008/01/23/bangaloreing-voters-list-review
 

Muralidhar Rao

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murali772's picture

reservations - hopefully quelled

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Exchanges on the subject between Mr M and me (in red) on the subject in the CAF google-group:

Dear All,
It is an excellent thing that one would be able get passports under the "tatkal" scheme., in 3 days This, it is hoped, would be achieved by the outsourcing agreement between MEA & TCS, at a cost of Rs. 1000 Crores. Why not similar time frames for normal passports? Why only under tatkal?

I expect everything will be speeded up, not just 'tatkal'

Certainly, Govt need not be engaged in activities where these could be farmed out to the private sector. There is a need to reduce drastically our bloated bureaucracy.

Music to my ears, Mr M

However, before we read wrong "lessons" from this agreement, my friends who seem to have overboard with joy at this deal, may kindly take a closer look at the details of the agreement.
1) MEA has outsourced the support functions, like improving citizen interface, managing technology and call center training, to TCS.
2) Sovereign duties, like security-related functions, verifying documents and decisions on granting passports will be done by Government staff.
3) Printing and dispatch of passports will also be by Government.
4) Government will own all strategic assets, including the data center, database, and the application software. [Perhaps, Murali's wish to have maintenance & preparation of voter lists outsourced, may not find support from the TCS deal.]
5) The entire system will have strict access controls.

Who has any quarrels with any or all of these? Indeed that's how it should be. If my understanding is right, whereas the government will own the assets, database, etc, they will all be managed by TCS. Otherwise, it doesn't make any meaning. And, that's exactly how the Karnataka CEO has also envisaged the outsourcing in the case of the preparation & maintenance of the voters' list also. But, the problem is that it is not enough if one state does it. The CEC has to push for a common model right across the country.

Other aspects one may wish to look at, would be the cost and profitability of such outsourcing. Would it have been better, [and perhaps cheaper,] to have a number of companies doing the outsourced functions, in different regions?

No cost is higher than having a non-robust system, particularly in matters like these involving national security, which can be misused by all and sundry, and that's where the importance of engaging reputed players comes in. And, I expect the contract was awarded to TCS after inviting competitive offers from other equally reputed Indian companies.

There is also a danger in imagining that only the so-called "reputed" companies should be given such jobs. Any policy that discriminates against newer companies stifles innovation and entrepreneurship. How would small companies grow and how would monopolies be prevented, if one were to go by market reputation, real or imagined? The very idea, especially at a time when we see the great names of the financial world go under the weight of their own ill-thought schemes, is incongruous.

I expect these contracts will be for specific periods, after which others could come in with their competitive offers. So, there's no problem about monopoly. That apart, Indian Corporate culture cannot be totally equated with other country corporate cultures

As for CAF, writing to the SEC "demanding" similar methods, may I say that the problem is different in voter lists? In the system of preparing voter lists, the present State head [of EC], needs to able to get the CEC to rid itself of outmoded ways of doing things. The voter enumeration process needs change. We had addressed the CEC sometime back. He [SEC] seems to have mentioned that he would be undertaking some of the suggestions, [like using employer databases and enlisting their cooperation,] we gave him and the previous SEC. Whether he has the will to make drastic changes, which a normal bureaucrat would find extremely difficult, remains to be seen.

The position today is that the voters' lists are less than 50% accurate. The reason why this is so also does not call for any extensive research. It is more or less outlined at http://praja.in/blog/murali772/2007/12/12/secs-muddle
These can very easily be addressed by outsourcing the job to companies like TCS.

I would strongly advocate that CAF takes up the matter, and ASAP too.

Muralidhar Rao

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

mission mode project

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TOI report on the project:

The number of public dealing counters will go up from 345 to 1,250 and the waiting time to submit a passport application will be reduced to 45 minutes. On-line services such as registration for application submission at a fixed time and end to end tracking of applications by applicants will be provided. Three national call centres, grievance redressal system and an effective information system are also on the anvil, diplomatic sources said.

Front end activities have been outsourced to TCS, the MEA staff in the PSKs and regional passport offices will continue to perform sensitive tasks such as granting, printing, dispatch of passports, overall monitoring and policy issues. An online secure link with police authorities for quick movement of police verification information will be set-up.
    
The MEA has embarked on this ambitious mission, given the rising demand for passports in the country. In 2007 alone, the ministry issued about 50 lakh passports while the figure for 2005 was about 35 lakh.
     
The ministry of external affairs issued the letter of intent to TCS on July 23, adjudging it the ‘best value bidder’ for the project, estimated to be worth Rs 10-15 billion.
    
The Passport Seva project began as one of the 27 mission mode projects listed in the national e-governance plan.
    
The cabinet on September last year approved the seven-point plan, which includes turning the current 36 regional passport offices into back-end offices and a private service provider, setting up 68 facilitation offices.
    
In return of better services, the private service provider will charge a fee of about Rs 200 for each transaction. Within eight years, the number of passports issued has nearly tripled from 2.2 million in 2000 to six million in 2008.

For the full text, click on: http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Repository/ml.asp?Ref=VE9JQkcvMjAwOC8xMC8xMiNBcjAwNzAz&Mode=HTML&Locale=english-skin-custom

Everything looks right about this project. Wonder what the other 26 mission mode projects are! Whatever, if they are executed in the same professional manner, life will certainly become a lot simpler. And, if preparation & maintenance of voters' list is not on it, it is time the public demanded it, it being at the very starting point of the democratic process.

Muralidhar Rao

Muralidhar Rao
shas3n's picture

National e-governance plan

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Murali Sir, here are some links for more information on national e-governance plan. http://india.gov.in/govt/... http://india.gov.in/outer... And these are the services that are being (or will be) offered http://india.gov.in/govt/... Looks ambitious and very desirable. Hope it does get implemented. -Shastri

-Shastri

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