“Passports should at least be bilingual," says the External Affairs Minister
In changes aimed at easing the process of getting a passport, the Minister also announced 10% reduction in passport fee for applicants who are under eight and over 60 and said ration cards could be submitted while applying for tatkal passports.
Giving the option of submitting submit a ration card would greatly help people in rural areas who do not have a PAN card.
Personal details in passports are now printed only in English and Ms. Swaraj said she had received several complaints about it.
“Passports should at least be bilingual. All Arab countries have their passport in Arabic, Germany makes it in German and Russia makes it in Russian. Why can’t we make it Hindi?
“Now, we have given an order to Nashik Printing Press that passports should be (printed) in Hindi as well. So you will receive passports in Hindi and English,” Ms. Swaraj said at an event to mark 50 years of the Passport Act, 1967.
The postal department released a commemorative stamp on the occasion. The event was attended by Communications Minister Manoj Sinha and Ministers of State in the External Affairs Ministry V.K. Singh and M.J. Akbar.
Ms. Swaraj said there was a rise in the demand for passports for the elderly.
“There will be a 10% reduction in passport fee for applicants who are under eight and over 60. And this will be applicable from tomorrow,” she announced.
During the Vedic era, she said, eight years was when children were admitted to a gurukul and vanasprartha (a retired life where time is dedicated to social service) falls in the 60-year age group.
Ms. Swaraj said she had received several complaints about difficulties in getting a passport.
After studying passport rules, she realised that some norms were “unnecessary, obsolete or impractical.”
She also highlighted the steps taken by her Ministry in easing rules for getting the international travel document, especially for orphans, single mothers and divorced women.
While applying for tatkal passports, the Minister said, applicants could give a copy of their Aadhar card, PAN card or ration card, voter identification card apart from a self-attested letter that he/she does not have any criminal compliant against him/her.
Police verification, a major part of the passport issuing process, takes time, the Minister pointed out.
Ms. Swaraj asked other States to emulate Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Delhi, Chandigarh, Gujarat and Goa that complete the police verification process in less than six days.
Ms. Swaraj sought to assuage fears of passport department officials and said their promotion and career growth would not be hampered because of Post Office Passport Seva Kendras (PoPSK).
“No work will be done by the Ministry that is detrimental to your interests. I take this responsibility that your interests will not be hampered,” she told the passport officials.
After the NDA government came to power, the Ministry of External Affairs started PoPSK services in different post offices of the country. In the first phase, it announced 86 such centres and 149 in the second phase.