Soon Indian travellers will get smart e-passports with microchips. Ministry of External Affairs is planning to launch smart e-passports with secure biometric data, according to the Secretary, the Ministry of External Affairs Sanjay Bhattacharyya, who announced the news on Twitter.
According to Bhattacharyya, India’s new smart e-passports will make it easier for passengers to get through immigration checkpoints. It will be compliant to the International Civil Aviation Organization’s criteria (ICAO) standards.
The e-passport was unveiled at India Security Press, Nashik. The government press, which is in charge of printing passports, visas, postage stamps, postal cards, inland letters, envelopes, court fees stamps, etc., is already scouting for a manufacturer to make ICAO-compliant electronic chip inlays in the passport jacket. TCS, which had bagged the second contract to run the Passport Seva Programme, will also adapt its systems for biometric-based e-passports.
According to Tej Bhatla, Business Unit Head for the public sector at TCS, the company will focus on bringing the required technology infrastructure for e-passport, but the functions like printing will be taken care by the government.
Around 150 countries across the world are already using biometric-based e-passports, including Bangladesh, the UK, Germany, among others. Though India is yet to begin issuing biometric passports for its citizens, country's diplomatic and official passports are biometrically secured since at least 2008. The then President Pratibha Patil was the recipient of the first e-passport in India.
Biometric-Based E-Passports Are Not New in India
The idea of a chip-secured biometric passport for Indians is not new. Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar had earlier said that the government was in talks with India Security Press about the feasibility and applicability of the project.“We propose to pursue the manufacture of e-passports on priority so that a new passport booklet with advanced security features can be rolled out shortly,” Jaishankar had said.
India has already issued about 20,000 official and diplomatic e-Passports, which contain an embedded electronic microprocessor chip. India currently issues passports for citizens in paper booklets and was recently ranked 83rd in the list of most powerful passports in 2022, improving its ranking by seven places.