E-passports launched, president gets first copy

June 25th, 2008 - 6:42 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Pratibha Patil

New Delhi, June 25 (IANS) The government Wednesday launched the ambitious electronic passports scheme with President Pratibha Patil, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Vice-President Hamid Ansari becoming the first ones to receive the biometric passports. The e-passports are initially meant only for diplomats and will be issued from next month. The scheme will be extended to ordinary citizens from September 2010.

“Around 800,000 e-passports would be issued by 2010,” External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said after presenting the first e-passport to Patil at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

“It is compatible with international standards and identity cards. It will protect against fraud and security breaches. It is easy to verify the authenticity of e-passports,” Mukherjee told reporters.

Accompanied by Foreign Secretary Shivshnakar Menon and other senior officials, Mukherjee later went to Manmohan Singh’s 7 Race Course Road residence to present him the e-passport. Mukherjee also visited Ansari’s residence to give him a copy.

The e-passports have an electronic chip that contains all relevant personal data and simplify procedures at immigration.

The new passports have been designed by the Central Passport Organisation, New Delhi, India Security Press, Nashik, and the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur.

“I call upon the Central Passport Organisation to take steps to upgrade their resources according to international standards. It will make the passport more secure,” Patil said.

“India is one of the first developing countries to have this system. Forty-one countries have adopted e-passports so far,” she said.

It will also make it easier for Indian citizens to cross border control points with e-passport reading facilities, Patil added.

Patil said the government has to constantly balance security needs while making it easier for people to get passports.

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