In a written reply to a question, Minister of State for External Affairs V K Singh said there are approximately 2.86 lakh handwritten passports in circulation as on date in the country.

"The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has set a deadline of November 24 for globally phasing out of all non-machine readable passports.

"From November 25 onwards, foreign governments may deny visa or entry to any person travelling on a non-machine readable passport," he said replying to the question by DMK member Kanimozhi.

He said that the government started issuing machine-readable passports since 2001. "Therefore, passports issued before 2001 and particularly issued during mid-1990s with a validity of 20 years will fall in the category of non-machine readable passports."

Singh said that Indian citizens residing in India and abroad and holding handwritten passports as well as 20-year passports with validity beyond the November 24, 2015 have been advised through public notices and media campaign to apply for re-issue of their passports well before the deadline
in order to avoid any inconvenience in obtaining foreign visa for international travel.

He was replying to a question on what steps has been taken by the Ministry of External Affairs for phasing out such passports.
Replying to a separate question by Independent member Parimal Nathwani on whether large number of applicants are facing difficulties in getting their passports or appointments by passport seva kendras (PSKs), the minister said that due to heavy demand for passports, there are a few PSKs, where appointments for normal category of passports are available after a few weeks.

"There was a temporary shortage of passport booklets, which created some backlog in issuance of passports which has since been addressed," Singh said.

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