New Delhi: The wait at immigration counters could now just last a minute as the Modi government’s proposal of a chip-enabled e-passport is set to be implemented.
The Centre has finally cleared a long-pending plan to issue chip-enabled passports and has granted approval to the state-owned India Security Press (ISP) in Nasik to procure the chips and produce the passports.
The e-passport will contain a 64 KB silicon chip that will hold data such as the photograph, fingerprints, name, address, Aadhaar number and digital signatures of the passport holder.
Sources said that the move will be initially implemented for diplomatic passport holders before being available for others.
The decision will not only ensure quick and hassle-free travel but is also expected to help authorities crack down on trafficking and fake passports.
According to sources, the Bureau of Immigration (BoI) had been pushing for the chip-enabled passports due to a growing number of passengers travelling on fake passports.
Statistics available with the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), which manages security in a number of airports across the country, show that in 2018 there were 110 cases of people travelling on fake documents at the IGI airport in New Delhi as against the 41 such cases in 2017. The data for IGI airport with the BoI is even more incriminating — it shows that there were 400 such cases in 2018 against 150 in 2017.
A home ministry official said that an automated system will allow authorities to keep a better watch on the “around 5 lakh passengers who fly in and out of the country from IGI every day”.
“This is a great and a much-needed initiative,” the official said. “Now, if anyone tampers with the chip or if it is not an authentic chip, the system will be able to identify it and the passport will not be authenticated. As a result, the passport holder will not be allowed to travel.
“This will considerably bring down cases of people travelling on fake passports and forged documents,” the official added. “It will also deter agents who travel to and fro on different passports for drugs smuggling and human trafficking.”
What will the new passport have?
The back cover of the new e-passport will contain the silicon chip.
Once passengers reach the immigration counter, they will just have to scan the back of their passport on a machine next to the electronic gate. The machines, sources said, will be first installed at the IGI airport in New Delhi before being introduced at the other international airports.
If the passport is valid, it will be authenticated in less than 60 seconds allowing easy passage.
If not, the passenger’s credentials will be checked by an immigration officer.
According to sources, the software where the data of all passengers will be stored has been developed by IIT-Kanpur and National Informatics Centre (NIC).
When will e-passports be introduced?
According to sources, ISP, Nasik, has been authorised to float a global three-stage 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 manufacture of e-passport will start after the tendering and procurement process is completed by ISP, Nasik, sources said.
Officials from the Ministry of External Affairs, the National Informatics Centre (NIC), the Indian Security Press (Nasik) and the Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur are said to have worked on the project.