There is hardly anyone who did not face trouble while getting a new passport, correcting or renewing their existing ones. The trouble turns into harassment and suffering especially at the central passport office located in the capital's Agargaon area. Applicants don’t receive their passports within specified time even after paying the government-prescribed fees.
There are four key reasons why the passport service is not properly delivered to the recipients. First, there is a shortage of infrastructure and manpower against the volume of work. Second, there are wrong information in the majority of the applications. Thirdly, there is a bureaucratic tangle due to the involvement of several other agencies with the passport service. Fourthly, despite having regional passport offices, the central passport office is overcrowded.
Prothom Alo reports that Dhaka's Agargaon passport office has the capacity to manage 2,560 applications daily. But more than three thousand applications were submitted. As many as, 800 to 1000 applications submitted daily contain errors. About 5,000 people visit the passport office every day, including applicants and their relatives.
The passport office does not have the necessary physical infrastructure and manpower to serve such a large number of applicants. According to the officials, at least 10 more offices are needed in Dhaka alone to provide services in time. And with the current manpower, it is possible to properly serve 450 people a day.
One of the major causes of suffering is filling up the application form incorrectly. Almost 85 per cent of applications contain errors. It is important to find out the reason why most of the applications are wrong. Most of those who come to apply for passports are from marginalised communities. They make mistakes while filling up the form. In that case, it is important to consider whether the application process can be simplified by taking a lesson from the Surokkha app.
Like other services in Bangladesh, passports also have bureaucratic hurdles. Not only passport and visa offices, but banks, birth registration certificates (BRCs) and national identity card servers are involved in issuing passports. If there is a problem in the server of any organisation due to any reason, the ongoing work of passport office is disrupted. Sometimes there is often a delay in getting police verification report. Old passport holders also have to complete all processes including biometric, police verification (verification) in case of information correction. It takes a long time. This complex, bureaucratic and lengthy process also creates opportunities for corruption.
About 12.5 million expatriate workers work abroad, including in the Middle East. Apart from this, a large number of people travel abroad for education, business, employment and medical purposes. Bangladesh's economy is mainly driven by expatriates and import-export income. Sufferings and delay in delivering passports is absolutely unwarranted. Citizens apply for a passport by paying a specified fee. In return, they have been promised to serve them within a certain period of time, which should be protected at any cost. It is necessary for establishing transparency and accountability.
In order to speed up the passport service to avoid suffering, it is necessary to appoint the necessary manpower along with setting up new passport offices in Dhaka. There is a need to find out a way to overcome the bureaucratic hurdles and technical hurdles in extending this service. There is also no option to decentralise the service. The government should give necessary attention so that citizens get proper passport services.