India is all set to start issuing e-passports for all its citizens. This will make passports tamper-proof and facilitate hassle-free immigration throughout the world.
The External Affairs Ministry of India and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) signed an agreement on January 9 for the second phase of the Passport Seva Programme (PSP-V2.0), which proposes the roll out of microchip-embedded e-passports. The second phase of the Passport Seva programme will be for a period of nine-and-a-half years wherein TCS will deploy latest technologies to ease passport related services.
An e-Passport, also known as an electronic passport or a biometric passport, combines an electronic chip along with a biometric identifier. The new chip-embedded e-passports will have security elements to prevent unauthorised reading of data stored on the chip.
Secretary to Government of India in Ministry of External Affairs, Sanjay Bhattacharyya, announced it on social media on January 6.
As of now, all passports in India are printed on booklets, but this new initiative by the Indian government is a big step forward towards adhering to protocols set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
India has issued 20,000 official and diplomatic e-Passports on a trial basis already, according to some reports. Former President Pratibha Patil was the first recipient of an e-passport way back in 2008.
The Ministry of External Affairs has assigned the task of designing the security features of the new e-passport to the National Informatics Centre (NIC) and Indian Security Press in Nashik. However, the process of granting and printing of passports will remain with the government.
Current Indian passports fall under the category of Machine-Readable Travel Document (MRTD) which was introduced by the ICAO in 2016. This is characterised by two lines at the bottom of the first page of the passport booklet that contained details unique to the passport holder.
New e-passports will embed an electronic chip with the booklet. This chip will hold biographical information of the passport holder as well as digital security codes. Incorporating biometric data will improve security of passports and make it impossible for forgers to duplicate.