Everything About E-Passport: The ministry of external affairs has expressed plans of introducing chip-enabled e-passports soon, in an important news to frequent travellers. “It has been the constant endeavour of the ministry to enhance passport services, in fact all citizen services that we provide, and introduce new features and facilities in the passport and our passport services,” MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said recently. “India to soon introduce next-gen ePassports for citizens,” Sanjay Bhattacharyya, Secretary of the Consular, Passport & Visa (CPV) Division at the external affairs ministry also tweeted. Bagchi further said that the government is in the process of implementing the project.
Here is what we know so far about India’s e-passport project that is under the process of implementation:
a) The new e-passports will be based on secure biometric data and will ensure smooth immigration process globally, Bhattacharya said in his tweet. It is part of an effort by the government to eliminate forgery while facilitating the immigration process.
b) The e-passport will be ICAO compliant. “The government gave its approval for the procurement of electronic contactless inlays for the manufacturing of e-passports to India Security Press (ISP), Nashik. The government press is a subsidiary of the Security Printing & Minting Corporation of India Limited (SPMCIL), a public undertaking of the Indian government. In this regard, ISP, Nashik was authorised to float a global tender for procurement of International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO)-compliant electronic contactless inlays along with its operating system, which is required for the manufacture of e-passports. The manufacturing is supposed to commence on the successful completion of the tendering and procurement process by the press,” News18.com said in a report earlier on Thursday.
c) The Indian government at present issues traditional booklets as passports for individuals who wish to travel abroad. More than 12.8 million passports were issued in 2019 by the Passport Issuing Authorities (PIA), according to a report from MoneyControl.com. This made India the largest passport issuer after China at the time. However, traditional passports pose a risk of fraudulent activities, which e-passports aim to curb. The chip embedded in the passport booklet stores biographical information on page 2 of the passport, and has a digital security feature. This means that the chip has a unique digital signature of each country that can be verified using their certificates.
d) The idea of e-passports in India was floated in 2017. Since then, India has issued as many as 20,000 official and diplomatic e-passports on a trial basis. All these passports have the chip embedded in them. The country also has plans to introduce fully digital passports that can be stored in devices like mobile phones. In 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said that work is on to issue chip-based e-passports to Indian citizens under a centralised system. “Our embassies and consulates are being connected to the Passport Seva Project worldwide,” he had said.
e) The government has also said that it has selected the Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) for the second phase of Passport Seva Program. The programme, which was launched in 2008, saw TCS transforming the passport space into a digital one — providing services online and setting global benchmarks for timeliness and reliability. In this phase, TCS will roll out fresh features to enable the issuance of e-passport