At a time when the people of Bihar are aspiring for more, the number of passports being issued in the state has declined perceptibly.
The Regional Passport Office (RPO) here issued 1.47 lakh passports in 2012, a sharp drop of 25,000 in comparison to 2011, when 1.72 lakh were issued. The latest numbers are even less in comparison to the 2010 figures, when 1.64 lakh applicants in the state got the desired document.
The trend is surprising because the state got a Passport Seva Kendra (PSK) in early 2012 to tackle the growing number of applicants with more efficiency and transparency. Even the application and police verification processes were made online to move the things at a faster pace.
Queried about the worrisome aspect, regional passport officer Anand Kumar said, "The drop in the numbers is because of several factors. When we changed the system to online, adaptability by the people turned out to be a huge issue. Only those who needed passports desperately came.. Others who could defer, did so."
"Under the new system, the role of travel agents or authorised relatives has been done away with. Each applicant has to come in person to provide fingerprints and photographs. This is another reason for fall in numbers," added Kumar.
Moreover, the trimming of the list of documents acceptable for proof of address by the ministry of external affairs (MEA) is also being seen as a big dampener on the passport applications. Driving licence, birth certificate, property papers, arms licence, and post office passbooks are no more acceptable.
Till a couple of years ago, these were the documents that were mostly used by the people seeking passports.
To add to all these, waiting woes at the PSK are also keeping the people away from applying. The lesser number of employees at the counters are resulting in long queues and the situation becomes chaotic by noon. "On an average, 15-20 minutes are being spent on one applicant. This time needs to be cutdown so that more people can submit their applications. More manned counters are needed for the submission of documents," said a passport official.
The RPO is expecting the trend to take a positive turn in 2013. It issued 17,500 passports in January, and is targeting to touch 2 lakh by December-end.