Govt retracts from e-passport move

May 21, 2009

The government has decided to go ahead with the project of machine-readable passports, to be issued from the next year, backtracking from its earlier decision to introduce e-passport, to be commissioned in 2014.
The Awami League government immediately after assuming office on January 6, 2009, first decided to implement machine-readable passports and then moved towards e-passport before once again reverting to the machine-readable passport project, which, critics say, will only put an additional financial burden on the state exchequer.
A high-level meeting presided over by the home secretary Abdus Sobhan Sikdar on May 6, 2009 decided to start issuing e-passports in April 2010 without introducing machine-readable passports, planned by the previous Awami League government in 1998.
But the home affairs minister, Sahara Khatun, after an inter-ministerial meeting on May 18 said the government had decided to assign the army the task to implement the machine-readable passport and visa project at a cost of Tk 283 crore.
The army will work with the immigration and passport department for the implementation of the project with the assistance of foreign companies, said home ministry officials.
The government has decided to start upgrading passports for its citizens in the next year in compliance with international requirements for ‘transparent’ identity of Bangladesh citizens.
It will be mandatory for the people of the world to take electronic passports by 2014, to be introduced in line with the rules of the International Civil Aviation Organisation to digitally connect all member countries to end passport forgery.
As for the government’s backtracking from its earlier decision, the immigration and passport department director general, Abdur Rab Hawlader, told New Age on Wednesday that the government had opted for machine-readable passport as there was no such deadline for the introduction of e-passports.
He said, ‘As there is scope to upgrade machine-readable passport to e-passports, we will first issue machine-readable passports.’
Experts, however, feel there is no scope for machine-readable passports to be upgraded to e-passports as the two passports have completely different technologies.
‘The conventional passport with a bar code below the photograph is regarded as machine-readable passports. On the other hand, e-passports have micro-chips containing all data of the passport holders which cannot be implemented in machine-readable passports,’ said an expert.
The international expert said introduction of machine-readable passports first and then moving towards e-passports would put an extra financial burden on the government and would create problems for passport holders.
The director general, however, set aside such views and claimed he had sufficient information after consultation with international experts that machine-readable passports could be updated to e-passports.
In reply to a question, he said the project might involve some foreign companies in buying machines required for the process.
Abdur Rab said the government had issued 16,000,00 passports in 2007 and 22,000,00 in 2008.

Courtesy of NewAgebd

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