Despite the ever-increasing population and its solid economy, India in 2009 saw a drop in the demand for passport for the first time in the last five years-whether it's the IT slowdown that saw numbers falling in the cyber-states of Hyderabad and Bangalore, or sluggishness in trade that witnessed a slump in the passports issued in Surat and Madurai.
A global job machine that stopped gulping down cheap labour, say experts, directly affected the dollar dreams of the traditionally migrant people of Kerala and Uttar Pradesh, where fewer-than-ever passports were handed out.
Data from the ministry of external affairs shows the demand for passport climbed down throughout the financial crisis years when the global economy contracted; in fact, last year saw a reduction in the absolute number of new passports issued. Software companies said the recession-hit sector neither saw too many graduates being recruited nor young staffers being sent abroad.
Pradeep Gupta, chairman of the Cyber Media group, notes that apart from the general slowdown, processes and the manner in which business is conducted in several IT houses has changed. "Gone are the days when you train a new staffer for a month and put him on a plane for a foreign project. There are several people working on foreign projects right here from India."
Industry captains also feel that the number of people going out has fallen. "The big opportunities are in India; that's a fact," says P Arokiaswamy from the International Institute of Population Studies.
Applications for new passports from the country's metros, says an external affairs ministry official, have been falling for the past several years. A senior official in the consular passport and visa division says that requests for passports have gone up in the first half of 2010 and the new hot-spots from where the demand is coming include smaller towns and tier-III cities.