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What explains India’s record number of passports since 2014?

Print edition : Aug 25, 2022 T+T-

What explains India’s record number of passports since 2014?

At the Thiruvananthapuram airport’s New International Terminal Building.

At the Thiruvananthapuram airport’s New International Terminal Building. | Photo Credit: S. MAHINSHA

The record number of passports issued shows the growing interest among Indians in going overseas.

The travelling Indian is raring to go, as never before, be it in search of employment opportunities, education, or just good old sight-seeing. From 2014 until May 2022, the government issued a record 8,81,37,068 passports, according to statistics available from the Ministry of External Affairs’ “performance dashboard”. Of these, 7,86,93,038 were issued in India and 94,44,030 in overseas consulates and missions. The all-time annual record was achieved in 2018 when 1,14,94,722 passports were issued.

Maharashtra topped the list with 90,38,006 passports, closely followed by Kerala (90,31,355). Tamil Nadu ranked third, followed by Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Gujarat. These six States together accounted for about 50 per cent of all the passports issued during the period under consideration.

However, Kerala was way ahead of all States with significant populations in terms of passports per capita. With a population of 3.34 crore in 2011 and an estimated population of 3.58 crore in 2021, it can be safely assumed that one in four persons in “God’s Own Country” is a passport holder. This comes as no surprise given the State’s long history and continuing trend of emigration to Gulf nations, South-East Asia, the US, and Europe.

Similarly, Punjab, which accounted for a whopping 63,27,669 passports in the past eight years, has a high ratio of about one in five, given its estimated population of around 3 crore now.

The passport boom could not have been possible without the exponential growth of the Passport Seva Kendras (PSKs) network. The PSKs were started in 2010 and as of now, there are some 521 such Kendras across the country. The average issuance time has also dropped from 16 in 2014 to six days for the past three years.

Apart from empowering Indians to take wing, the Ministry has also enabled millions of international travellers to visit India by issuing a total of 3,49,73,877 visas in the past eight years. Of these, 2,48,42,379 were regular visas and 1,01,31,498 e-visas. The number of countries eligible for e-visas has also zoomed from 43 in 2014 to 171 as of 2022.

With a view to building stronger connections with the Indian diaspora, the Ministry has issued 26,83,553 Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cards in the past eight years.