Passport issuance to get better with TCS

Written by Political Bureau | New Delhi , Oct 10 | Updated: Oct 11 2008, 11:00am hrs
In an effort to improve passport services in India , the government will be signing a contract with software major Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) on Monday for starting the Passport Seva project.

The formal contract will be signed in October 13 by foreign secretary Shivshankar Menon and TCS chief executive officer and managing director, S Ramadorai.

The contract will be signed almost three months after the ministry of external affairs had issued the letter of intent to TCS on July 23, for the project, estimated to be worth Rs 10-15 billion. A public-private initiative, the Passport Seva project began as one of the 27 mission mode projects listed in the national e-governance plan. The ambitious project aims to issue a new passport within three days and shorten queue time. It will be first initiated as a pilot project in two cities for about eight months. After that, there will be three months of testing to evaluate the system, which has to be operational within 19 months of the contract being signed.

Last year in September the Cabinet had approved the seven-point plan, which includes turning the current 36 regional passport offices into back-end offices and a private service provider setting up 68 facilitation offices. It also envisages floating a SPV for management, supervision and monitoring of the project.

In October 2007, tender for the project was floated on the basis of a report by the Hyderabad-based National Institute for Smart Governmenta non-profit organisation dedicated to spreading e-governance in India. Only eights companies submitted the bids, which were opened in April 2008. The techno-commercial evaluation of the bids then shortlisted TCS as the best value bidder.

In return for better services, the private service provider will charge a fee of about Rs 200 for each transaction. Within eight years, the number of passports issued has nearly tripled from 2.2 million in 2000 to six million in 2008.