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Speech by External Affairs Minister on the occasion of Passport Seva Divas and Passport Officers’ Conference (June 24, 2014)

June 24, 2014

[Rough translation from Hindi]

Our Foreign Secretary Shrimati Sujatha Singh, Special Secretary Dr. Swaminathan, Muktesh ji and all the passport officers, partner organisations and our officers and workers’ body, who have just been facilitated with Passport Seva Puraskar (Passport Seva awards) right now.

We are celebrating Passport Seva Divas today. We are celebrating the birth of the Passports Act (1967) because of which passport seva was started. There is a general atmosphere of celebration and gaiety whenever we celebrate birthdays. Organisations celebrate their birthdays by creating an atmosphere where a few speeches take place; people come, clap and leave. I believe that whenever an organisation celebrates its birthday, there are two things that we should do on a priority basis.

It’s a good time for us to evaluate our achievements and weaknesses in the past one year. We should then think on how we can strengthen our achievements further and work towards removing our weaknesses. I feel if we work in these two areas, namely, evaluating our entire year of work and make decisions for the future, then the celebrations could be more meaningful. I am satisfied with the fact that before celebrating this seva divas, I had a long meeting with passport officials. All the officials on the stage at the moment were present in the meeting, including some who are not here.

The discussion at the meeting was very positive. During the meeting, I received a startling piece of information. As we said earlier, there have been delays in the issuance of passports; we discussed the reasons for such delays. We found that one reason for this delay was the unavailability of passport booklets. If the passport booklets are not available, one cannot hold the passport official responsible. On thinking more on this issue, the fact that surprised me the most was that the passport booklets are printed only at the Nasik press. To print a passport, the Nasik press needs four such materials, which are sourced from different parts of the world. There is a mechanism of global tendering for these materials and security clearance from the MHA has to be obtained. The process is so complex that it takes years. So I said that if this process is complex and takes years to complete, it is more intelligent to double the order than our requirements. If we issued 85 lakh (8500000) passports, then the estimates this year should be around 1 crore (10000000). If 1 crore (10000000) passports have to be issued in a year, then we should place our for materials needed to print 2 crores passport (20000000) booklets, so that materials to produce 1 crore passport stays in stock and our service does not collapse in the event of unavailability of passport booklets. We have thus decided that the orders that we will place will be more, so that we can maintain booklets in our stock. This way the complaints of delay in passport service will be taken care of.

Similarly, many issues came to light. There is also a delay in police verification. Some states do it quickly while some states do not. We have introduced an incentive scheme in this regard. The police generally say that the maintenance of law and order takes precedence over verification. The issue of passport verification ranks least on their priority. It is in this regard that the incentive schemes have been introduced.

We have given a term ‘seva’ and we are all wearing a badge today that read ‘seva’. There is a vast difference between seva and duty. When we get a job in an office, we do our duty. When we work from 9 to 5, we start at 9’0’clock and work till 5’o’clock. If somebody comes after 5’o’ clock, we say that our duty hours are over and that we will come tomorrow at 9’o’clock.

The difference between seva and work is that seva is not defined by fixed hours. There is a sense of modesty in ‘seva’. If ‘seva’ (service) is done with a smile, then it is more effective and pleasant. We should remove the word ‘seva’ (service) from our name and say that we are doing our duty of giving passport, but if we say that this is passport ‘seva’ (service) and we are ‘sevaks’ (servants), and we are at service of the common man by issuing him a passport, then we should cultivate our behavior and mannerism according to ‘seva’ (service). And politeness is closely associated with ‘seva’ (service). If someone comes to us, we will not be rude to them. We shall talk to them politely. We will inform them of about the problems, deficiencies and the obstacles associated with their work in a polite manner. ‘Seva’ (service) is done in a cheerful frame of mind, and not in a gloomy or complaining mood. ‘Seva’ (service) done cheerfully bears fruit. Therefore, if we have adopted the word ‘seva’ (service), then we should inculcate the feelings associated with it.

There has been significant progress. Numbers (of passports issued) have also increased. We have taken assistance of other organizations as well. A lot of things have become easier because of this.

A lot still needs to be done because 90% of Ministry of External Affairs’ work is related to overseas matters like fostering relationships abroad, meeting foreign guests and personally visiting foreign states. Of the 10 percent of those matters that is directly related to aam admi (common man), passport seva is most important. Among the services through which the common man will evaluate the changes in Ministry of External Affairs, passport seva is the most important. If he/she gets information regarding the processing of his passport and how many days it will take to reach him/her, it will come as a relief. It is impossible to issue passport as soon as applicants come but we can at least tell them about the time, in this case 30 to 40 days, in which they can contact us. We call this information about status. By using today’s technology we can create a mechanism for them through which one would know the exact status of his/her passport. And it would be more comfortable this way for everyone. The person would come on the day he/she is asked to. Lack of information makes an applicant uncomfortable. In this age of information technology, we can eliminate this by keeping our data up to date.

I felt nice as Dr. Swaminathan mentioned, while ending his speech, that we had a brain- storming session that day. I urge all of you to do the same. You should connect directly. The only information that I received in that meeting was that which my MPs gave me, the ones from my twitter handle and the ones I received as complaints. You are connected directly and you know how to solve the problems and complaints coming our way at the centre. I feel that when you leave this place, you should all sit in your office and have brainstorming session over the services that have been good, and how it was made possible and also over services that have not been satisfactory and the reason behind them. You should decide on these matters and write to us.

I am going to have another meeting after this because I have come to the conclusion that even after so much being done, our passport seva is not satisfactory. I am looking forward to the day when people will say "we are very much satisfied with your services” and this is my aim and topmost priority. This is a benchmark (mayar) that we have to achieve. People should get their passport on time so that we can achieve a level of perfection in what we do. It is necessary for you to do a brain-storming session on applicant’s complaints and what else can be done to achieve this goal. I assure you that you will get all the assistance from the ministry whenever you need it. The people of India should not have any complaints in matters of issuance passport. The government has changed, and the people will judge how efficient the government is on grounds whether or not the services that were being offered to them have improved and their lives have been made easier. We have to increase the speed at which we work. If speed and efficiency increase in the service, then we will be able to resolve people’s complaints speedily.

I would like more people to receive awards when we celebrate our next Passport Seva Divas here. I want every office to say that we have been able to achieve more this year than what we had achieved during previous years, and have left no stone unturned in our efforts. I want them all to hold their head high and tell me that I have not received any complaints from their respective offices and that the benchmark that I had set for them, they have been able achieve it.

I congratulate you all once again and wish you success in your endeavors.

Thank you very much.

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