A day after Hindustan Times published a report that passports may no longer be valid proof of address as they may not have the last page, regional passport officer in Pune said that the changes will come into effect from June this year.
HT in its Friday edition had reported that passports may no longer be a valid proof of address for the reason that they may not have the current last page with the address of the passport holder. However, all the information will continue to be possessed by the passport office and the immigration department or security agencies.
JD Vaishampayan, the regional passport officer, Pune said that the new passports will be issued from June 2018 once the existing lot is distributed.
“Basically at the time when the financial allocation is done, we decide an estimated number of passports that would be required for the entire year. So, by May 2018, the existing stock of passport will end. Consequently, by June we will start issuing new passports,” said Vaishampayan. The new passports will be printed at the India Security Press, Nashik, said Vaishampayan.
Earlier, confirming that changes could happen from “next series” of the passport being issued, Surendra Kumar, undersecretary of policy and legal matters and visa division at the ministry of external affairs, said that the new decision has been taken to protect details of passport users. “The decision to keep the last page of passport blank has been taken to protect the details contained,” said Kumar.
According to officials, the details of the passport holders are in the back-end with the officials. Since 2012, all the passports have had a barcode and by simply scanning them, the information can be accessed. Currently, the first page of the passport has the photograph as well as other details of the passport holder; the address is printed on the last page.
Speaking about whether these changes in the passport are being done to make Aadhaar the only residence proof, Vibhuti Kumar Bhushan, regional passport officer, Kolkata said, “These changes have nothing to do with the importance of Aadhaar card. Passport is basically a travel document.”
Besides the changes in address, the MEA is also considering changes in the color of passport.
Currently, passports are issued in three colors: white for government officers or to those people who visit other countries for official work of the government; red for diplomats; and blue for all others across two categories — those who require emigration check (ECR) and those who do not (ECNR).
Soon, however, those in the ECR category will have orange passports, Kumar said. This will increase the speed of the process of emigration as the color of the passport will make it clear whether the emigration check is required or not. The printing of the new ECR passports will be done at the India Security Press at Nashik. In this case, too, existing ECR passports will be valid.
Dr. Kiran Shinde, pediatrician, a Pune resident who practices in Saudi Arabia said, “The decision by the Government of India should be welcomed. In peak hours when I travel to Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from India, the average time required to clear the process of emigration is one hour. Different queues should be made for the ECR and the ECNR category of passport holders to avoid any confusion. With proper planning and execution, this is certainly a good change and will be quite helpful for the passenger”.
Daud Khan, sales associate, Panasonic from Kuwait said, “In the larger context, the overall idea appears to be good. This will certainly help in crowd management and will save the time consumed in the immigration process. However, it will be too early to comment whether the decision is good or bad. What concerns me is the implementation of it and how well is it received by other countries. Government endeavors are infamous for grave mismanagement and preparation in India. The bearers of ECR Passports are uneducated people. Ergo, if anything goes wrong in another country or even in Indian airports people will panic which can invite some serious problem. The government of India should take such issues in cognizance while preparing the guidelines of implementation of this change”.
Pathan Atahar Khan, a resident of Beed said, “I visit Gulf countries quite often. This year I will be going to Haj Yatra. In this ‘Yatra’ many people belong to the ECR passport category. We are very happy with this customer-friendly decision of the government of India. This decision will cut short the lengthy time taken for the process of emigration check. However, the government of India must ensure that for lacking the information of these changes, it does not create a chaos amongst the common man”.
RPO Pune said, “Now that the official decision regarding the changes in the passport has been taken, we will also formulate the policies regarding informing the same to our passengers. However, it will be very premature to speak on any decisions concerning the same.”