In the first 10 months of 2022, the Regional Passport Office (RPO) Pune issued 20% more passports than those issued in all of 2021. Last year, the RPO issued over 2.3 lakh passports. Between January 1 and October 31 this year, it has issued nearly 2.8 lakh passports, that is, over 48,493 more than in 2021.
However, the rise in the number of applications has also led to a delay in appointment times. Applicants in the region now have to wait for nearly a month to get an appointment at the Passport Seva Kendra (PSK) in Pune, while the previous wait time was only about two days.
The PSK in the city is currently giving out about 1,050 appointments – both for normal and Tatkaal passports – in a day. When TOI checked on Wednesday, the next available appointment for a normal category passport was January 2, 2023. The situation was worse for a Tatkaal passport as the next available date was January 12.
Officials attribute this rise in the number of applications to the sudden surge in foreign travel as international borders have opened up following a drop in Covid cases.
Arjun Deore, Regional Passport Officer, Pune, told TOI: “The number of daily appointments given for passports has now gone up to 2,035 for the various districts that fall under RPO Pune. We also give 220 appointments per day for police clearance certificates. While we have increased the number of appointments, the demand has also increased. That is one of the reasons for the rise in the number of passports issued (both fresh as well as renewals) this year.”
During the peak of the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, the passport office had to decrease the number of appointments due to physical distancing norms.
“Due to pandemic restrictions, many people did not travel abroad and thus did not renew their passports. As these restrictions are getting lifted internationally and people are travelling more, they are now realising that their passports have expired or are about to expire. Thus, Pune – one of the major IT and business hubs – is seeing a demand for passports and this has led to long appointment wait times,” Dr Deore said.
He added that despite a delay in appointments, the processing time has reduced. “Once an applicant submits necessary documents under Tatkaal and if they qualify for this category, many passports are issued in 48 hours,” said Deore. Under normal circumstances, Tatkaal passports are dispatched after three working days.