Siliguri, 29 August
Darjeeling MP SS Ahluwalia has said external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj has agreed to visit Siliguri to inaugurate a Passport Seva Kendra (PSK) here.
“I held talks with her on the issue twice. There will now be a PSK here. The minister has assured me that she would come here and inaugurate the PSK,” Mr Ahluwalia said here today.
A Siliguri-based philanthropic organisation consisting of members from all sections of society has been demanding a permanent passport office in Siliguri. The Passport Application and Collection Centre (PACC) in Siliguri was closed down on 1 April last year following the directive of the Regional Passport Office, Kolkata, under the ministry of external affairs. The PACC used to cater to the whole of north Bengal from Siliguri.
Doctors, academicians, engineers, lawyers and retired persons belonging to the Siliguri Nagaraik Samity (SNS) have demanded that the Centre immediately set up the Passport Seva Kendra (PSK) here.
“Siliguri, the gateway to the Northeast, is one of the most important places.
The importance of the town has been growing by the day.
“The Centre had taken initiatives to open the PACC, considering the importance of the area. Later, it was announced that it would be converted into a PSK. But, suddenly the PACC was shifted to Behrampore in Murshidabad district without any valid reason by the previous UPA government at the Centre,” SNS general secretary Durga Saha said.
The organisation yesterday served a memorandum to the minister of external affairs, Sushma Swaraj, through the Siliguri Sub-Divisional Officer.
The PACC was inaugurated by the then Union minister of state, Ministry of External Affairs, Ajit Panja, on 12 May, 2000 and it used to issue passport forms, receive applications and send them to the regional passport office in Kolkata for processing.
“Travelling all the way to Behrampore to submit application forms is not an easy thing to do. So people prefer to go to the Regional Passport Office in Kolkata,” Mr Saha said.