Goa has only one passport office and that is in Panaji. People from all over the Goa have no other option than to visit the capital city for any immigration-related work. This amounts into a lot of trouble, especially for the senior citizens. People are forced to travel back and forth in the event of skipping a single document in their file.
The report in this regards was published by the local daily Heraldo, the south Goa residents are demanding for the passport office in South District as people from south Goa needs to take leave from their work to attend the passport office in North Goa. According to one of the case study reported by the daily, Rozario Fernandes who lives in Canacona has to take the day off to visit the Passport Centre in Panjim. After taking little over two and half hours to get to Panjim, he is asked to come back another day as he did not get the requisite papers and was thus forced to spend another two and half hours on the bus to go back home.
The demand to open a passport office in South Goa to meet the needs of the hundreds of thousands of residents living across the Zuari bridge has been pending for decades now. “I need to get my passport renewed as I require it for the documents needed to work on the ship and I have limited time here. While the passport office work in Panjim is quick, a lot of time gets spent fixing the date and travelling up and down and then you have to do other work like getting the CID check from Margao and then it is issued. From a pure convenience point, it would have been much easier if this physical work could take place in Margao,” said Steven Tauro from Benaulim.
Another person who is working in the gulf has to face the similar situation. “I work in the Gulf and we get very little time to spend in Goa and for us every minute is important. To travel to Panjim is nothing but a waste of time and if you look at the population in the district and a large chunk of seafarers and people working in the hospitality industry are from the South and this is as good as an essential commodity for us,” added Pedro Lopes from Quepem.
The report further says that the senior citizens have to face more difficulties due to the online process don’t work well with them. “I am a senior citizen and need a passport to visit my children in Dubai. I have to fend for myself and it is difficult to understand the process and a big headache. Once you reach Panjim you have to find out things and then go all the way back to get one document. If it was in the South, filling the form, getting the documents would have been much easier,” said Arlette Dias from Cansaulim.
Although the government is doing their bit by organising the passport mela at south Goa to encourage the people to come forward, Minister for NRI affairs Avertano Furtado pointed out that there has been a huge demand from south Goa to hold the passport melas.
Furtado agreed that there is need of passport office in south Goa and he said that he has been working towards it for past two years and he is very positive that soon it will be a reality. In the past, the NRI state department and South Goa MP Narendra Sawaikar have written to the central government asking for permissions to open up a centre in the South. Incidentally, place has already been allocated in the event that such a centre is to be opened at the South Goa district Collectorate building in Fatorda.