Want passports? Go all the way to Kolkata

The Bengal Post

Siliguri-People of North Bengal are in a fix as the passport collection centre in Siliguri would stop functioning from April 1. Those who want to apply for their passports would have to queue up at the regional passport offices (RPOs) in either Behrampore or Kolkata.
On May 12, 2000, then Union minister of state for external affairs Ajit Panja inaugurated the passport application collection centre (PACC) in Siliguri. Since then, passport applications were collected by PACC officials and sent to the RPO in Kolkata.
The PACC claimed that applicants would get their passports within 28 days of applying.
The Centre issued a notice on Monday that they would stop working from April 1 but in future there would be a mini Passport Seva Kendra (PSK), which would collect applications from the people. The state government is likely to have a mini PSK in Kolkata and three more in Siliguri, Kharagpur and Behrampore. But, there has been no notice or date related to the PSKs.
Laxmi Devi Rai, a local resident, has to go to Dubai next month to visit her daughter but the present situation worries her. She said: “We live in Khaprail. We do not have any relatives in Kolkata or Behrampore. We have never even gone to these places. It would be difficult for us to go there and submit the form.” The same reaction was also given by Shiv Ram Sharma, a resident of Terai.
Siliguri MLA Rudranath Bhattacharya said: “This has been a bad approach by the central government. Within a few months, immigration will start from the Bangladesh border. So, a passport centre is necessary for this region.”
North Bengal development minister Gautam Deb said: “We will not accept this. We will fight for this against the central government. If the Centre wants to create a mini PSK in Siliguri, then they have to make it first and afterwards, stop work at the PACC.” CPI(M) leader Asok Bhattacharya said that the people of North Bengal would face a lot problems due to this decision.
Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry of North Bengal (FOCIN), also took up the issue. FOCIN secretary Biswajit Das said: “We have demanded several times for a PSK in Siliguri, but not like this. The government first needs to set up a PSK in Siliguri and then close the present office. We have also demanded a visa centre for Bangladesh in Siliguri. We will send a letter regarding this to the divisional commissioner of Jalpaiguri.”

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