Nepal finally gets MRPs. When will you get yours?

Nepal has finally started distributing Machine Readable Passports (MRPs) since Boxing Day. Yesterday morning, Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal handed over the first MRP of the nation to CNN Hero 2010 Anuradha Koirala amid a function Sunday morning at Baluwatar.

Similarly, Deputy Prime Minister Sujata Koirala handed MRPs to Prime Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, Constituent Assembly (CA) Chairman Subas Chandra Nemwang and heads of other constitutional bodies. The ministry's officials are due to offer MRPs to President Dr. Ram Baran Yadav and Vice President Parmananda Jha.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) had set a deadline of April 1, 2010 by which to introduce MRPs. As is the norm in Nepal, the process of procuring the passports was controversial and provided great fodder for the newspapers. First, Sujata Koirala unanimously awarded the contract to India's state-owned currency printing firm, the Security Printing and Minting Corporation of India. This contract was cancelled by the Nepal Government and then awarded to French Firm Oberthur Technologies which won the final bid. Nepal missed the revised deadline of August 1 due to the delay in the selection process. Luckily, Oberthur Technologies has managed to meet the new revised deadline of Jan 1, 2011.

Nepalis will no longer have to travel on hand-written passports and consequently will not have to face many obstacles such as being looked upon suspiciously at immigration check points of various countries. 

Note: There are only around 15 countries in the world who do not use machine readable passports!