- ‘Genuine passports are often acquired against forged personal papers’
Mumbai, Dec 19 (mb): Passport officials have pleaded helplessness in curbing the influence of middlemen and touts in the issue of the travel document in the light of the recent scandals, which are now being investigated by the police.
Top officials say there is a need to put in place a uniform system to check the veracity of documents furnished by anyone who applies for a passport. They say passport being a travel document, it should be the first point to stop the movement of international terrorists and criminals.
“At present, there is simply no way to verify if personal documents/certificates accompanying passport application forms are bona fide,” Regional Passport Officer Hemant Kotalwar told DNA. “In many cases, passports issued by us are genuine, but the documents against which they are obtained turn out to be fake.”
Touts routinely exploit the loopholes in the system, arranging for passports against fake certificates and requisite personal papers. They bribe their way past policemen, who are supposed to verify the applications. Some employees of the passport office are also hand-in-glove with the touts.
Officials point out that in the recent immigration fraud case, most of the passports that were issued had been obtained against fake documents.
They say it is high time the government stops treating the passport as a primary document to establish a person’s identity. This, they believe, will reduce the importance of the passport to some extent, and, consequently, the use of fraud to obtain it.
“Ideally, a person’s school-leaving certificate or his ration card (if they come laced with security features) should be viewed as his primary identity document,” Kotalwar said. “Or, for that matter, a social security number, like in the US. The passport should always be entertained as a secondary document.”
All the regional passport officers in the country have recently been asked by the external affairs ministry to deal sternly with touts. Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahamed said touts should be stopped from fleecing passport seekers as they are not authorised to submit application forms on anyone’s behalf.