By M.C. Linthoingambee
If there is ever a single thing I could truly wish for, that would be to travel the world. I mean, we all grow by meeting new people, visiting new places and that’s all one can ever ask for or maybe a little more than that, I reckon. The passage that comes in the way of going abroad beyond a country comes with certain travel exist documents like a passport, visa, cross border passes etc. But all these documents are more than a little inaccessible in our state Manipur . I remember an incident wherein I tried to make out my passport on my own through the approach of some travel agents who promised to make it available after payment of cost amounting to around 20,000 rupees; despite the fact that making a passport costs a lot less than the said amount.
The Indian legislative breakthrough for passports comes in the form of a legislation known as the Passports Act, 1967 which was enacted to provide for the issue of passport and travel documents by giving coverage to the whole of India and that of the Indian citizens who are staying outside India. It is a mandatory provision in Section 3 of the said act that no person shall be allowed to depart from India unless he holds in his behalf a valid passport or travel document as maybe specified. While the Constitution gives privileges of right to go abroad as a flagship of achieving personal liberty through the express confine of Articles 14, 19 (1) (a) and 21. With more and more applications for passports and with more people urging to go abroad for their respective reasons, a need for this certain authority for the issue of passport has become a need of the hour.
There have been several demands from various heads of the State since 2010 urging the Centre by requesting the Ministry of External Affairs to come up with a passport office in Imphal. The only regional passport region for the Eastern region governing seven states in total is in Guwahati which causes a travel inconvenience for the people of Manipur owing to the long distance between the two states and the long and large sum of travelling fare which one has to bear. Promises have been made for a Passport Office to bear significance in the State soon to put an end to all the conceivable troubles faced by its people. This announcement was made by Muktesh K Pardeshi, Joint Secretary (PSP) and Chief Passport Officer, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India while inaugurating a two-day long Passport Camp organized by Ministry of External Affairs at 1st Manipur Rifles Banquet Hall held in February, 2014. Through this grant, he has promised that the State will become more aware of the importance of passport with additional measures of passport mela, awareness camps, etc… which shall be held from time to time during the time period till the office opens. This news was further confirmed by Deputy Chief Minister Gaikhangam, who also holds the portfolio of Home, during the Question and Answer session of the Assembly session recently in response to the query raised by the Opposition MLA Dr. Ibohalbi. It was also revealed that a perfect location for the office space is therefore attained in a private building which would be hired and it is soon to reach commemoration by the end of this year. It is also thus implied that basic training of the staffs to be engaged in the passport office is to be provided for the same purpose.
Over the course of many a long years, the Consular Passport and Visa (CPV) Division of the Ministry of External Affairs has been responsible for the issuance of the Indian Passport to Indian Citizens which is done from 30 locations across the country and 163 Indian missions abroad. They also serve as huge online and offline service providers by availing of all information in relation to the issue of Passports. All the Passport offices located in India have an online Status Enquiry Service, whereby one can check the status of a passport application by entering the File Reference Number available in the receipt. The application for a fresh Passport, re–issue of Passports/ issue of Passports in lieu of lost and damaged Passports and for miscellaneous services, we can obtain the relevant Passport Application Form from any of the Passport Offices or the designated Speed Post centers or any of the designated outlets in your city. The completed Application Form has to be submitted, along with other necessary and supporting documents at any of following locations, under the jurisdiction of which the applicant is presently residing: across the counter of the Passport office; at the Speed Post centers; District Passport Cells and the Passport Collection Centers. What comes in the way of the smooth functioning is the amount of general fraud. There have also been endless counts to the number of cases in relation to passport frauds. Currently most of the passport fraud cases registered so far have been charged under the provisions of IPC 420 (cheating), 468 (forgery for purpose of cheating) and 471 (using as genuine a forged document) and Section 12 of the Indian Passport Act. It is better yet to go with the passport office than a personal dealer at the end of the day.
The general outline is that we all have a certain right to go out and come beyond our territorial borders as and when we wish so who says the dream has to end here. I guess, the trip around the world is a part of the endless number of dreams I share with you.