In a bid to facilitate international travel and ensure an added-layer of security for passport details of the holder, India is to begin issuing chip-based e-passports to all applicants by the end of the year. Although the concept of replacing current passports with e-passports was announced last year, it was not clear when the roll-out to citizens would begin.
Now, Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishanker, while speaking during an event held to mark Passport Seva Divas on 24 June, confirmed that the new e-passports will begin to replace current passports before the end of the year. He added that with this service the government reaffirms its commitment to deliver citizens with the next level of experience.
The new e-passports, which follow International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) specifications, will have an electronic Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip embedded in it that will store all crucial details of the passport holder. An antenna embedded as an inlay in the back cover will transmit the passport details to immigration and security officials at airports thereby speeding up immigration clearances at international airports.
The new e-passport adheres to International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards, and is expected to reduce the circulation of forged or duplicated passports and enhance security by preventing the tampering of passport details.
In a trial-run in 2021, the government issued over 20,000 e-passports to select government officials, including diplomatic staff.
Indian tech-giant, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has been appointed to work on the back-end services for the passport, and as part of this agreement will set up a command and control center for e-passport services at the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi and a new data center to provide the back-end services.
All 36 passport offices in India will issue e-passports after the components of the personalization system are installed in the current issuance system. The government is reported to have set a target for the issuance of nearly 10,000 e-passports per hour and 50,000 per day, with the potential to accelerate this output to 20,000 per hour and 100,000 per day.