Tata Consultancy, government sign passport services pact (Lead)

October 13th, 2008 - 3:37 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 13 (IANS) Software major Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) Monday signed a contract with the government to start the Passport Seva project, a public-private initiative to improve passport services in India.The contract was signed by joint secretary in the external affairs ministry R. Swaminathan and Tanmoy Chakraborty, TCS vice president and head of government-industry solutions unit.

“Due to accelerating demand, the ministry estimates that it will issue 10 million passports in 2011”, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon said after signing of the agreement.

He said even though the ministry has been trying to improve the system for several years, it was felt that there was a “need for a quantum jump”.

Under the Passport Seva project, 77 passport centres will be started in the country increasing the number of counters from 345 to 1,250.

“The security level that will be maintained in the Passport Seva project is considerably higher than in several other countries,” Menon said.

The contract was signed almost three months after the ministry of external affairs had issued the letter of intent to TCS July 23, adjudging it the “best value bidder” for the project, estimated to be worth Rs.10-15 billion.

The Passport Seva project began as one of the 27 Mission Mode Projects listed in the national e-governance plan.

The ambitious e-governance project aims, among other objectives, 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.

The cabinet in September last year 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 special purpose vehicle for “management, supervision and monitoring of the project”.

The tender for the project was floated last October on the basis of a report by the Hyderabad-based National Institute for Smart Government - a non-profit organisation dedicated to spreading e-governance in India.

Only eight companies submitted bids, which were opened this April. The techno-commercial evaluation of the bids then zeroed in on TCS as the “best value bidder”.

Within eight years, the number of passports issued has nearly tripled from 2.2 million in 2000 to six million in 2008.

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