Citizens complain about the online passport appointments system, which was touted to be a revolutionary step for people to get quick service and bypass middlemen, but the opposite is happening.
Jayaprakash Nambaru, the green man who vociferously bats for environment protection in the City, is vexed to the core. For many days, he has been trying without success to use the passport authorities’ online appointment system, which was launched as a measure of empowering the general public.
“The passport appointment slot opens every day at an appointed time, which varies for different locations: Hyderabad at 4pm and for Vijayawada, it is 5pm. You wait eagerly for the clock to strike 5 and try. It shows a message ‘The appointment is already selected, please select another appointment’. But this is a red herring. You get no appointment. Frustrated, I called up the office and was told to try the next day. The game continued for a week, after which I gave up,” says Jayaprakash.
Inquiries revealed that hundreds have been frustrated in a similar manner. But, intriguingly, agents are getting appointments. “The idea was to relieve the common man of the tedium of making rounds of the passport office, but instead, it proves a smokescreen for babudom to operate,” says DD Reddy, a businessman, who too has been trying in vain for the same.
A long-term agent at the passport office premises at Secunderabad said, “Only the fastest finger in the world gets through.” Officials refuse to entertain public inquiries, but the FAQ and public notices put up on the passport public notice website proclaims the online service as a ‘revolutionary’ step to help public to get quick service bypassing agents and middlemen.
No official solution
There are passport seva kendras all over India. According to the website, of the 77 kendras, 50 are working full-time across the country for the benefit of the citizens and for the convenience of the people. The same website proclaims that last week, 87,726 applications were processed and 82,095 are pending. The number of applications received was not known. The online passport project is being taken care of by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), which bagged the mission mode of the governance project and passport seva project for a period of seven years in October 2008 from the ministry of external affairs (MEA).
Postnoon went to the Secunderabad passport office to inquire about the online situation, but the officials refused to comment.