External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar Monday said his ministry has proposed manufacture of e-passports on priority so that the travel document with advanced security features can be rolled out in the near future.
Speaking at the seventh Passport Seva Divas, Mr Jaishankar said the ministry has initiated discussions with the "India Security Press" regarding the project for issuing chip-enabled e-passports to the citizens.
"We propose to pursue the manufacture of e-passports on priority so that a new passport booklet with advanced security features can be rolled out in the near future," the minister said.
He said that in line with the commitment made by the government in its previous tenure, the ministry shall continue with the process of opening new Post Office Passport Seva Kendras (POPSK) in every Lok Sabha Constituency where no seva kendras exist today.
"Both our ministries (MEA and Ministry of Communications) are completing the necessary formalities for early inauguration of the POPSK already announced. We would also be announcing more locations for setting-up POPSK after completing the feasibility studies," he said.
"Last five years of passport services delivered by the ministry constituted a passport revolution. The mandate of the MEA is to ensure good governance and a transparent, efficient, timely, effective, reliable, assured and accountable public service delivery system," he said.
Noting that on average, more than one crore passports are issued every year, Mr Jaishankar thanked Communications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad for enabling opening of 412 POPSKs since January 2017.
"Together with the 93 Passport Seva Kendras which are already functional, this has taken the total number of PSKs in the country to 505 today. The common man of the country now has a Passport Seva Kendra near his or her residence and is not required to travel too far to submit the passport application," he said.
Mr Jaishankar said the partnership between MEA and Department of Posts is a wonderful example of the best practice in citizen-centric governance.
He said optimal use of the technology should be made along with the tools provided by the government''s initiatives under Digital India.
"During the passport seva diwas last year, the mpassport seva mobile app and apply for a passport from anywhere scheme were launched. These two initiatives demonstrate how technology can help applicants," he said.
Mr Jaishankar also gave awards at the function to the best performing passport offices. Jalandar Passport Office got the first prize followed by Cochin Passport Office and Coimbatore Passport Office at second and third position respectively.
He said the state police authorities have an important role in the timely delivery of passports.
"The average time taken for police verification has come down to 19 days in 2018, and we would like to bring this down further. In this context, the performance of states like Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Kerala has been exemplary and their award today is well deserved," he said.