Mumbai: The Ministry of External Affairs has stated by way of an RTI reply that it did not maintain a record of the number of passports issued by it or the revenue generated from them.
The reply was in connection with a Right to Information plea filed by Shailesh Gandhi, who, incidentally, was Information Commissioner with the Central Information Commission earlier.
Gandhi had sought information on the number of fresh passports issued in the last five years, the total revenue generated from them and the amount paid to the private contractor, which along with the MEA, operates the passport issuance mechanism.
In its reply on June 15, made through CPIO Subodh Kumar, the MEA said that the information asked by Gandhi was not maintained.
It also pointed out to section 7(9) of the RTI Act which allows the ministry to not divulge information if doing so would disproportionately divert the resources of the public authority or would be detrimental to the safety or preservation of the record in question.
Gandhi termed the MEA’s reply as “very disturbing” and added that the government either wanted to hide something or was abdicating its responsibilities.
“This (reply) indicates that the disclosure would reveal something which the government wants to hide. Or the government has completely abdicated its responsibilities and does not monitor the records,” Gandhi told PTI.
Interestingly, in October 2015, city-based RTI activist Manoranjan Roy had filed a similar query with the MEA.
In Roy’s case, the ministry’s CPIO Jagpal Singh had furnished a reply which stated that 73,89,558 and 58,17,515 passports were issued in 2012 and 2013 respectively.
The numbers saw a spike of 41 per cent in 2014 and 98,80,000 passports were issued, the reply had stated at the time.
Giving a break-up of the type of passports issued, the CPIO’s reply had stated that in 2012, a total of 24,311 diplomatic (red colour) and official (grey colour) passports were issued.
In 2013, the number of diplomatic passports stood at 25,130 while in 2014 it dipped to 20,208.