Inaugurating the "DigiLocker" platform for the "Passport Seva Programme" of the Ministry of External Affairs, Union minister V Muraleedharan on Friday said it would enable citizens to submit the documents required for passport services in a paperless mode and they would not be required to carry the original documents. Speaking at the event, the minister of state for external affairs said the "Passport Seva Programme" has brought in huge transformation towards the delivery of passport services in the country.
"This has seen a sea change in the last six years. The monthly submission of applications has crossed the one million-mark for the first time in 2017. I am told that more than seven crore passports have been issued through the Passport Seva project till date," he said.
"We took several significant steps to improve the service delivery experience for the citizens. Not only the work of simplifying passport rules has been achieved but also, we have worked towards taking passport services closer to the doorstep of the citizens," Muraleedharan added. Noting that starting passport seva kendras in head post offices was a step in this direction, he said as a result of that, 426 post office passport seva kendras (POPSKs) have been operationalised and many more are in the pipeline. This, when added to the 36 passport offices and 93 existing passport seva kendras, makes a total of 555 passport offices for the public, the minister said.
To give further fillip to the citizen-centric approach and enhance the passport service experience in a paperless mode, "we have now successfully integrated into the DigiLocker platform of the government", he said. This would enable citizens to submit the documents required for passport services in a paperless mode through DigiLocker, Muraleedharan said, adding that now, they are not required to carry the original documents. "I would also like to add here that as a next step, we are working on the idea of a passport to be included as one of the documents in DigiLocker.
Moving forward, I am confident that this will help the citizens to retrieve the passport whenever required," he said. In case of loss of passport and while reissuance, this facility will be of great help, the minister pointed out. DigiLocker is a flagship initiative of the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) under the Digital India Corporation (DIC). DigiLocker aims at "digital empowerment" of citizens by providing access to authentic digital documents in their digital document wallet.
The issued documents in the DigiLocker system are deemed to be at par with original physical documents. "We are also working towards rolling out e-passports for the citizens that are designed to increase security, making it more difficult to tamper with the data recorded on a passport, thereby limiting the chances of fraud," Muraleedharan said. In the coming years, biometric passports would help improve immigration processes at airports that are equipped with automatic e-passport gates, he added. In the upcoming Passport Seva Programme V2.0, the use of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, chatbot, analytics, robotic process automation (RPA) will further ease the experience of the citizens and lead to expeditious service delivery, the minister said. With the availability of the DigiLocker facility now, the citizens do not have to look for the original documents to carry with themselves when they are away from home, he said.
"I welcome all the citizens to use the DigiLocker facility and make the passport application process paperless," Muraleedharan said. For the ease of the Indian diaspora abroad to avail passport services smoothly, the government has integrated 150 Indian missions and posts in foreign countries into the Passport Seva project, he said.
"The government under (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi has been giving due importance to realising the full potential of Digital India. Digital India is transformational, it brought in public accountability through mandated delivery of the government's services electronically and minimised the interaction between officials and citizens. "I am confident that leveraging the DigiLocker for passport services would ensure ease of access for all citizens," the minister added.