While lockdowns in most parts of the world affected travelling since early 2020, people are hardly applying for not only visas but also passports. The usual volume of passport applications and related services that the Regional Passport Office (RPO), Bengaluru, receives every year runs in lakhs. However, in the pandemic-hit 2020, the number of applications and final services given has seen a sharp dip compared to the previous year — despite functioning through the months where most other sectors were closed.
The RPO received 76,695 applications since April to mid-October for various services like the issuance of passports. The authority granted 76,523 of these applications. It issued 88,139 passports during this period besides 3,135 Police Clearance Certificates (PCC) and 17 Surrender Certificates (SC).
During the corresponding six-and-a-half months in 2019, the RPO had received 4,24,804 applications, of which it granted 4,30,087. It issued 4,34,700 passports, 12,899 PCCs and 55 SCs.
There was no need for passports, with international air travel shut due to Covid-19 and stringent lockdown in place. The RPO had to reduce the number of appointments by half after a directive from the Ministry of External Affairs in March just before the first lockdown was announced as a precautionary measure.
The RPO restored the number of appointments to normal recently after adopting the necessary precautionary measures. However, it is taking only half or less than half of the usual appointments.
In the last few years, the RPO has received over 7 lakh applications for passport and related services. Months of low demand this year will definitely have a telling impact on the final numbers this calendar year.
Regional Passport Officer Bengaluru Bharath Kumar Kuthati said, “We can’t say with certainty, but the fact is, there is a steady increase in the number of applications.”
The RPO had said earlier that though the number of appointments taken had reduced to around 50% from pre-Covid-19 times, it is still an increase in recent months from the 20% post the first lockdown to around 40% now. An overall fear of crowded places is one of the reasons for applicants to stay away.