‘Pendency of passport applications a thing of the past’

Regional Passport Officer, Davinder Kumar

From reducing the time for passport appointments to creating a people friendly atmosphere in the office, the Regional Passport Office Srinagar has taken a slew of new initiatives under the leadership of Regional Passport Officer, Davinder Kumar, who speaks exclusively to Greater Kashmir’s Special Correspondent Syed Rizwan Geelani. Here are the excerpts:

GK: You are nearing a year in the office as RPO Srinagar. Can you share your impressions about your office?

   

Davinder Kumar: In December 2022, I joined this office, and I observed that there was a nearly 3-month waiting period for appointments due to a significant backlog of pending cases. Additionally, a substantial number of applicants, around 40 percent, would return daily because they lacked the required documents for passport applications, especially for passports. This caused considerable issues. One major problem was the lack of authenticated Aadhar cards, as many people were using fake ones. To address this, I requested assistance from DC Srinagar to open an Aadhar center within our office, which proved to be very helpful. Subsequently, many applicants with Aadhar-related issues were able to resolve them here, reducing the number of people returning. We also resolved other pending issues. As of today, we have a waiting period of just five working days for appointments, and there is a very friendly atmosphere here. Unlike before, where the public rarely interacted with our office, I now entertain applicants until 5:30 PM.

GK: A report in a national daily in May this year said there is a pendency of more than 5,000 passport applications in RPO Srinagar. How do you view these claims?

Davinder Kumar: The pendency has reduced from 5000 to 200-250, and we now have approximately 200-250 appointments per day. We have Passport Seva Kendra (PSK) in Anantnag, Baramulla, and Leh. We are planning to open another one in Kargil as well. In total, we have around 750 appointments across all offices, and some people even get same-day appointments. The Srinagar office alone releases around 300-400 daily appointments.

GK: Lots of complaints are pouring in that passport applicants find it difficult to get early appointments at RPO Srinagar? Is this because of the pendency of applications or are there any other constraints?

Davinder Kumar: The main constraint was the pendency of cases.

GK: Are any new initiatives being taken to facilitate early issuance of passports to applicants?

Davinder Kumar: I have taken two to three initiatives for public welfare. When I first joined, I noticed that applicants were standing outside with no proper seating or shelter from the weather. So, within a couple of days after my joining, I got a waiting room set up here, and security guards were instructed to allow some applicants inside if the weather turned bad. We also established an Aadhar center within this waiting hall. There was no organized queue system, so I arranged a shed to protect people from rain or snow. Now, people stand in an orderly queue, and there’s no inconvenience. The appointment cycle, which used to be three months, now takes only 4-5 days within working days.

GK: Students are also complaining about the delay in issuance of passports to be able to go outside for students. How far is this correct?

Davinder Kumar: Students are treated like other applicants, but if someone needs to secure admission in a foreign country by a specific date or has already booked a flight ticket, we consider their cases. We make an effort to expedite their verification reports.

GK: Can you share with us the figures of passports issued in 2022-23, and the current number of applications pending disposal before your office?

Davinder Kumar: The number of applications received till December 31 of 2022 was 84200 out of which we issued 76704 passports of the applicants. This year we received 93752 applications till October 30 out of which over 76000 passports have been issued.

GK: Did you conduct any awareness programme during your tenure to let people know how accessible you are for them?

Davinder Kumar: I conducted two special passport drives during the Hajj season, one in Srinagar and one in Leh. Previously, passports issued for Hajj and Umrah were valid for only one year, but with a positive response from CID, we managed to extend the validity to 10 years, providing considerable relief to the applicants.

GK: Why there is no relaxation for renewal of passports. The formalities are the same as it is for a fresh passport.

Davinder Kumar: Regarding passport renewal, the process is the same throughout India, and documents are taken again because we remain cautious about any changes or issues that may have arisen in the last 10 years.

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