Tuesday 7 July 2015

In e-age, desi snail mail still crawling along

MUMBAI: Often when there is a heavy traffic jam, cabbie Surya Prasad (name changed) turns to a friendly passenger, hands over a blank post card and requests him to write a few words in English addressed to his children residing back home in Khaspur village, near Patna. 

Even in today's era dominated by cell phones and email, millions of Indians continue to rely on postal services to reach across to their loved ones, yet understandably growth in the usage of snail mail has been stagnant.

According to the latest Annual Report (2014-15) of the Department of Posts (DOP), statistics of mail traffic ( a terminology which is used in the annual report to define the quantum of mail) handled during the year 2013-14, for which data has been collated shows a minuscule overall surge of 0.52% as compared to the preceding year. Overall, during 2013-14, DOP handled 608 crore registered and unregistered letters (post cards and inland letters all fall in this category), speed posts and express parcel posts. While growth in these three categories, as classified by DOP, has seen slight see-saw swings, unlike the telegram, these means of correspondence are not yet dead.

Ask Prasad, why he sends a letter and the replies are manifold - he wants his children to read English and when they do write back to him, he relies on yet another helpful passenger to read and translate their post cards. Plus, the cell phone at his village home isn't always charged owing to power outages.

The DOP incurs a loss for every post card, or inland letter that is sent out. The gap between the cost of producing a post card and the price of 0.50 paise which a user pays is STEEP when compared to SOME other POPULAR postal products, with the DOP incurring a loss of Rs. 7 per post card. As regards inland letters, while the user pays Rs. 2.50 per letter, DOP incurs a loss of nearly Rs. 5. For Speed Post, the gap between cost and revenue is Rs 15.40 but usage volumes are lower.According to a government official, both post cards and inland letters are primarily used in rural India and by those in cities to reach messages to India's hinterlands. Thus, the prices for the end user have remained unchanged since over a decade. "The DOP owing to 'commercial sensitivity' does not release the actual quantum of post cards or inland letters purchased in a year, but clubs it in the category of unregistered post," explains the government official. 

To an extent post cards are also used by activists in their campaigns. For instance, despite the fact, that Prime Minister, Narendra Modi is a social media enthusiast and regular tweeter, according to news agencies a month ago nearly 5 lakh Indians sent him a post card under the "Action 2015" campaign, a global movement spanning across 140 countries. In addition, use was also made of twitter. This campaign, initiated by Noble Laureate Malala Yousafzai, had called upon citizens to approach their governments and ask them to formulate sustainable development goals at the United Nations Assembly to be held later this September. 

DOP also has to come up to speed with new requirements. For instance, its annual report cites that a total of 19.4 crore Aadhaar cards were distributed via Speed Post. Later, during the period April to December 2014, 5.50 crore Aadhaar cards were dispatched as first class franked mail. 
Even as regards financial numbers, the annual report for 2014-15 provides details of the previous year 2013-14. The deficit of DOP during this year was Rs 5,473.10 crore as against the deficit of Rs 5,425.89 crore in 2012-13. 


Source:-The Times of India

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