e-passports by 2013

Monday, 12 June 2006, 07:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: If things go according to plan, Indians will have e-passports by 2013 that will help strengthen safeguards against fraudulent applications.

"We will soon launch the process for introducing e-passports. It will be done stage by stage," Minister of State for External Affairs E. Ahamed said.

"It's a long process. In the first phase, we will introduce the electronic version for diplomats and officials. Our target is to provide e-passports to every citizens by 2013," the minister said.

"By 2013, all the passports - both existing and the fresh ones - should turn into electronic ones," he said.

According to the minister, the new system would bolster the issuing process by providing further safeguards against fraudulent applications.

"Almost all the developed countries have introduced e-passports. We will soon initiate the process," Ahamed said.

An e-passport has a microchip that contains the digitized facial image and personal details of the holder as it appears on the data page. The microchip can be read electronically.

"This will help in identity verification and security, providing a much stronger connection between the individual and his or her identity than the existing system which relies solely on visual identification," Ahamed pointed out.

The ministry of external affairs also wants to simplify the process of obtaining a passport. It has suggested that police verification could be done away with for some categories such as students and employees of reputed institutes or offices.

"A certification letter from such institutes or organizations should be able to identify the person," Ahamed said.

However, he added that the home ministry had expressed some reservations citing security concerns. "Although we understand their concern, police verification for all the categories creates unnecessary delay and complications. We are trying to convince the home ministry about exempting some categories."

Ahamed said his office had been receiving several complaints of harassment -especially from the minority and weaker communities - by police.
Source: IANS
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