Invalid, but over a lakh Indian handwritten passports still in circulation
Two years after they were declared invalid travel documents and their holders asked to change them, over a lakh handwritten Indian passport holders are still to comply.
The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), a specialised agency of the United Nations, had set November 25, 2015 as the deadline for the gradual withdrawal of handwritten passports, sending out warnings that countries might deny visa to such passport holders.
The ICAO was established by the United States in 1944 to manage the administration and governance of the convention on international civil aviation (also known as Chicago Convention).
Accordingly, the government issued a public notice, urging the citizens to get their handwritten passports changed into machine-readable travel documents. Since then, several similar notices have been issued.
India stopped issuing handwritten passports in 2001. But over a lakh of them with 20-year validity were issued between I997 and 2000 and are reportedly still in circulation.
“We have been running campaigns in the country and abroad urging the citizens to get their handwritten passports changed with the one that is machine readable. There are still over a lakh of such passports in circulation,” said an official familiar with the process.
The official said while cases of people found travelling with handwritten passports and “ending up getting in trouble” are rare, the government is keen on making its travel document “in sync” with what is prescribed globally for passports.
“We issued the travel documents for 20 years. Then the ICAO changed the rule that all passports need to be machine read. So it’s our duty to reach out to the people,” the official said.
But this is not an easy task.
“Had such a rule change happened in today’s time, we would have easily reached out to people through email and cellphone,” said another official, adding that posting letters to people will prove a “logistic nightmare” as most of them have changed their address since the passports were issued nearly 20 years ago.
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- Kerala seems to have made considerable progress in tackling the menace, statistics show.