People across the country will have a Passport Seva Kendra within a 50 km radius soon. At a press conference on Saturday, Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj announced the goal to establish Passport Seva Kendras (PSKs) within every 50 km radius across the country to reduce the distance between people and PSKs and make passport issuance easily accessible to all.

Swaraj said, “I had received 77 PSKs as legacy. But I felt that this was a really small number given the size of our country. Then we started expanding our base and added 16 more PSKs, out of which 14 have already become operational. But a total 93 PSKs still seemed insufficient. Therefore, we collaborated with Manoj Sinha, Minister for Communications, to establish Post Office Passport Seva Kendras (POPSKs) and now at the end of three years, we announce 83 POPSKs, out of which 52 have become operational in the first phase. In the second phase, we are announcing to establish 149 POPSKs, which will lead to a total of 251 PSKs across the country. To fulfil our goal of establishing PSKs within every 50 km radius, we will continue to work to recognise potential head post offices and locations.” Swaraj further added that the target for the second phase has been kept at 251 because it is an “auspicious number”.

In February this year, the MEA and the Department of Posts (DOP) had announced to utilise the Head Post Offices (HPO) in various states as POPSK for delivering passport related services to the people. The objective of this partnership is to extend passport services on a larger scale and ensure wider area coverage of the travel document.

Swaraj also inaugurated the online portal of the “Know India Programme” to make the entire process of applying, processing etc., by Indian diasporic youth living in “Girmitiya countries” for various programmes run by the MEA to facilitate a channel for these youths to indulge with the mainland. “Girmitya” refers to descendants of indentured Indian labourers who were sent to Fiji, Mauritius, Surinam, Guyana, and Trinidad & Tobago, as plantation workers during colonial rule. The indentured labourers were made to sign an “Agreement” that restricted their return to the home country. Since the labourers were illiterate, the word “Agreement’ was pronounced by them as “Girmit”.

The “Know India Programme” (KIP) is a flagship initiative for engagement of the Diaspora, which familiarises Indian-origin youth (18-30 years) with their Indian roots and contemporary India, through a 21-25 days orientation programme organised by the MEA. Since 2004, 40 KIPs have been organised in partnership with state governments, with 1,293 participants in all. From 2016, six KIPs a year are being organised.

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