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Bihar, Uttar Pradesh witness 68% increase in new passports

Here’s news for those who routinely complain about migration from UP and Bihar to the rest of India. Data from the ministry of external affairs on new passports issued between January and November 2008 reveals a dramatic 68% increase in the two states, suggesting that jobs outside the country increasingly beckon.

Experts believe the rise can be attributed to personal travel and UP and Bihari workers travelling to the Gulf countries in search of blue-collar jobs.

It’s not just UP and Bihar – the country in general seems to be in the mood to wing its way to foreign shores if the 30% increase in passports issued by the 37 regional passport offices (RPO) across India between 2005 and 2008 is anything to go by.

But experts point out that the rush for passports may have as much to do with procuring proof of citizenship as potential travel. There’s rising demand in insurgency-hit areas of the North-East and J&K as well.

There has been a 30% jump in passports issued by the 37 RPOs across India between 2005 and 2008. While the demand for passports has been traditionally low in the insurgency-hit areas of the Northeast and Jammu & Kashmir, here too, the number of passports being issued is showing a strong upward trend — by 63% in J&K and 49% in the Northeast.

There is a discernible divide among various regions of the country in terms of both applicants and passports issued. All the southern states give out passports in hundreds of thousands every year. For several years now, the largest number of passports have been issued in Kerala, a state from where the largest number of Gulf job-seekers have gone in the last few decades.

In 2008, 6,69,777 passports were issued from four of its RPOs; this was an increase of 20% from 2005. Similarly, more than 5 lakh new passports were issued in Tamil Nadu, 4,50,454 in Andhra Pradesh and 2,63,109 in Karnataka.

During the same time, however, the figures remained low in several other states. Orissa (43,590), Madhya Pradesh (60,734), Chhattisgarh (17,050), Uttaranchal (10,470), Himachal Pradesh (22,927) and Jharkhand (33,346) posted low totals in 2008. The number of new passport-holders has remained consistently below the 1 lakh mark every year in these states.

However, Uttar Pradesh joined the big league in 2008 by issuing over 4 lakh passports. It is now fifth on the list in terms of the number of passports issued, beating Gujarat, Punjab and Haryana from where people have traditionally preferred travelling abroad for jobs. Bihar, too, has breached the 1 lakh mark.

Maharashtra, for the first time, has crossed the 5 lakh mark, showing a healthy growth rate — 37% more people getting passports in 2008 as compared to 2005. And here too it was not the RPO at megapolis Mumbai but the Nagpur region that saw the largest increase in new passport holders in percentage terms: a staggering 84%.

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