Administrative officials here have started preparing arrangements for chief minister Mamata Banerjee's visit to north Bengal.
North Bengal got its first Passport Seva Kendra (PSK) when the centre was finally inaugurated by Darjeeling MP and Union minister of state for drinking water and sanitation, SS Ahluwalia, here on Friday. The centre will be functional from 19 February.
The facility has come up on a 4,327 sq ft area of a building owned by the Siliguri Jalpaiguri Development Authority (SJDA) at Himanchal Vihar at Matigara.
“We had been pursuing the issue of the centre for the past four years. We met external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj on 13 August in 2014 and requested her to take initiatives on this issue.
She had informed in September that year that the ministry had decided to establish a new PSK in Siliguri and asked the then chief secretary of West Bengal to allot a suitable place. The 93rd PSK in the country was inaugurated in Siliguri on Friday,” Mr Ahluwalia said.
Siliguri MLA and mayor Asok Bhattacharya, who had written to the minister of state for External Affairs, Vijay Kumar Singh, over the delay in opening the centre in Siliguri, said it was very important that important towns like Siliguri have a PSK. Mr Bhattacharya attended the inauguration ceremony on Friday.
Siliguri-based apolitical forums like the Siliguri Nagarik Samity, and Brihattar Siliguri Nagarik Mancha had also taken to the streets with the demand.
“We are happy that the centre finally saw the light of day,” said secretary of the Mancha, Ratan Banik.
Regional passport officer Bibhuti Bhushan Kumar said the centre will receive 100 applications (normal and re-issuance), 10 for tatkal passports and 10 police clearance certificates a day. The office will be open Monday to Friday between 9.30 a.m and 5.30 p.m.
“If necessary, the number of such applications to be received in a day will be increased. We appeal to the applicants that they should not fall into traps laid by touts while they apply for passports,” Mr Kumar said.
“A deputy passport officer will be in-charge of the office, there will be one granting officer, two verification officers, two citizen service executive, one resident engineer and three security personnel,” he added.
He said three POPSKs are coming up this month (Malda on 23 February, Burdwan on 27 March and Barackpore on 10 March).