Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), which recently extended its contract to operate India’s passport services, expects to roll out chip-based e-passports by the end of the year, The Economic Times reports.
TCS is also setting up a new command and control centre with the Ministry of External Affairs and a new data centre to support the backend requirements of the project, Tej Bhatla, the head of TCS’s Public Sector Business Unit, said.
This is part of the second phase of the passport project the company bagged from the government recently.
“The Ministry is looking at a launch timeline within this year and we are working towards that. Once it is implemented, the new passports will be based on chips. Those which are currently in circulation will undergo the process of getting renewed with a new chip as and when they are up for renewal,” Bhatla told The Economic Times.
While the Ministry renewed its 10-year PSK deal worth over INR 6,000 crore with TCS in January, the government said in the budget that it would implement chip-based e-passports. This is the country’s largest mission-critical e-governance programme till date.
An e-passport is a chip-enabled passport with a biometric identification card strengthening the transparency and security of travel documents. However, it is no different from a regular passport in terms of application, verification, and information.
The unique benefits of e-passport are that passengers will not have to stand in queue for a long time as it can be scanned in a few seconds. Also, it has a biometric record of individuals. Therefore, it will prevent fraudsters from data piracy and making duplicate passports. Further, no one can wipe data from it.
The e-passport will have an embossed holographic image in a laminated film that would appear to change colour and move under light apart from the demographic information and iris scans of the bearer.
Bhatla said he does not expect the global semiconductor shortage to impact the e-passports programme.
“I think the demand is going to be fairly spread out and the government has already secured whatever they need for the next few months. We are in a relatively good state from an e-passport perspective,” he added.
The company processes an average of 15-20 million passports annually as part of the program.
In the next phase of the programme, the TCS will refresh existing facilities and systems including hardware, build new solutions for the issuance of e-passports and improve the citizen experience with solutions like biometrics, chat-bots and auto-response among others as they go through the passport application process.
This will also include giving a fresh look to PSKs and setting up new infrastructure for Post Office PSKs across the country.
TCS, India’s largest software services firm by revenue, manages similar solutions for India Post and IRCTC.