India Post enters 170th year amidst stiff competition and ambience issues
India Post enters 170th year amidst stiff competition and ambience issues
Confederation of Central Govt. Employees and Workers
Odisha State Coordination Committee, Bhubaneswar
Mobile / WhatsApp No. 9437022669
Having 90% Post Offices (POs) in rural areas most of which are still functioning either in thatched or asbestos houses in a very cramped situation even in this modern digital era, it was really incredible on the part of India Post to have its first ever 3D Printed Post Office at Cambridge Layout, Bengaluru on 18th August, 2023 as a testament to our nation’s innovation and progress. A throwback to history reveals that though the first PO in India was established in the year 1727 by English merchant and Zamindars of East India Company, the first imperial Post Office commonly known as Calcutta General Post Office (now Kolkata GPO) was established on 31st March, 1774. Thereafter, Madras General Post Office (now Chennai GPO) came into existence on 1st June 1786 and Bombay General Post Office (now Mumbai GPO) was established in 1793. Besides, there existed several private Dak agencies within the territory of British East India Company. To achieve coordination between the postal organizations under the above three Presidency Post Offices and several District Posts, the Post Office Act 1854 was promulgated and brought into operation on 1st October, 1854 as fore-runner to govern the functions of as many as 700 Post Offices. Thus, officially, India Post enters in to 170th year of its establishment on 1st October, 2023. Since 1854, it has never looked back. From pigeon to post, from manual to digital and from thatched house to 3D Printed Post Office, India Post has travelled a long way with the mists of time.
In the present era of rapid corporatization, privatization, downsizing, outsourcing and asset monetization of Government establishments and Public Sector Undertakings, India Post is trying its best with a noble mission to sustain its position as the largest postal network in the world touching the lives of every citizen in the country and making its products and services the customers’ first choice. From 700 POs till 1854 primarily opened in urban areas catering to the needs of Britishers for development of their trade and exercising control over their vast Indian possessions to 159251 POs as on 31.03.2022 (excluding 1614 Franchise Outlets and 820 Panchayat Sanchar Sewa Kendras), India Post has registered nearly a 227 times growth during the period of last 17 decades focusing its expansion to rural areas and thus has been acknowledged as the largest postal network in the world with one PO serving 8627 people in average (6229 in rural area and 31242 in urban area) covering an area of approximately 20.64 sq. KMs and providing postal facilities within reach of every citizen in the country at affordable prices adopting every mode of transmission from bare foot to air route.
Because of radical changes in public expectations and technologies, India Post is functioning as a public utility service, commercial and revenue earning department by way of providing poor man’s service like post cards etc. at subsidised rates, charging the corporate sector at commercial rates and has been a revenue earning organization to meet its own expenses in running other services for the common man. Due to emergence of electronic alternatives, more demanding customers, presence of organized / unorganized couriers for mail conveyance, financial players like banks and insurance companies and above all the challenges of globalization, corporatization and liberalization, India Post is now facing competition which has compelled it to be commercial day by day rather than remaining as a full public utility service department. Thus, to meet the challenges and to face the competitors on one hand and to prove itself as an efficient and reliable communication network as the main component of the communication infrastructure for playing a crucial role in the socio-economic development and integration of the country on the other, the Postal department is doing a lot of things other than just delivering letters aiming for a transformation with re-engineering of Business Processes and making it compatible to suit the new ICT solutions and evolving new processes based on customer needs. Illustratively, it introduced Post Office Small Savings Scheme (POSSS) in 1882, Postal Life Insurance (PLI) in 1884, Indian Postal Order in 1935, Speed Post in 1986, Express Parcel in 1994, Rural Postal Life Insurance in 1995, ePayment Services in 2006, Indian Railways Passenger Reservation System (PRS) in 2007, adopted modernization of Post Offices under Project Arrow in 2008 and complete computerization under I T Modernization Project in 2012. It is offering Digital Life Certificate (DLC) to Pensioners since 2015, selling Gangajal since 2016,working as Post Office Passport Seva Kendra (POPSK) and Aadhar Enrolment and Updation since 2017 and serving as a Common Service Centre (CSC) since 2020 providing hundreds of services to the members of public, viz; PM Jan Arogya Yojana (Ayushman Bharat), Shramyogi Man-Dhan Yojana, Fasal Bima Yojana, collection of electricity, water, telephone bills and insurance premium etc, recharge of mobile, cable TV etc, booking of air, railways and bus tickets etc. in addition to several other multiple services through Business Post, Media Post, Magazine Post, Retail Post, ePost, ePayment, eMoney Order and digital services to all its 134141 Branch Post Offices (BOs) in rural areas through DARPAN (Digital Advancement of Rural Post Office for a New India).
To sustain its position as the largest postal network in the world, a good number of POs are being opened every year. During 2021-22, it has opened 3007 POs including 2849 BOs in Left Wing Extremism affected areas. Out of 159251 POs in toto as on 31.03.2022, 25110 Departmental Post Offices (15.77%) are headed by a regular employee as the Sub Postmaster, Postmaster or Senior Postmaster depending on the status of the PO and rest 134141 BOs (84.23%) are headed by a Gramin Dak Sewak (GDS) as Branch Postmaster who was earlier treated as Extra Departmental Agent (EDA) without the status of a Central Govt. employee and continuing as such till date except the change of the nomenclature from EDA to GDS. A GDS is not appointed, but engaged. As a pre-condition of engagement, a GDS has to provide an accommodation for running of the BO for which a nominal amount, i.e. Rs.500/- for a standard house and Rs.250/- for a non-standard house per month is given as financial assistance. With this meagre amount, the Branch Postmaster doesn’t find a well-furnished house satisfying the ‘Look and Feel Good’ concept to appease the customers. Since almost running without the basic facilities of toilets, ramps, counters etc. and even without required standard furniture, these 84% BOs are not at all environment and customer friendly.
On the contrary, out of 25110 Departmental POs, while 4580 POs are functioning in departmental buildings, 19451 in rented buildings and rest 1079 in rent-free accommodations provided by different organizations. These POs functioning either in rented or in rent-free accommodations also suffer from the same issues faced by the BOs. Thus, out of 159251 POs, except 4580 POs (2.88%), rest 154671 POs (97.12%) suffer from poor ambiences and infrastructure facilities and hence fail to attract new customers and satisfy the existing customers. Out of 25110 Departmental POs, 808 are Head Post Offices and rest are Sub Post Offices, 90% of which are functioning single-handedly. One man has to perform everything, viz booking, delivery, despatch, Savings Bank, Insurance, Mails, Premium Products and all such services offered as a CSC which invite heavy rush causing delay in effective service delivery. In addition, instead of going for new construction for functioning of Aadhaar Centres, POPSK, India Post Payments Bank, Parcel Hubs etc, the Department utilized the space available in the existing building leaving a very congested public place to irritate the esteemed customers. And most unfortunately, barring some Departmental POs located in prime areas, no post office has proper ventilation system either with provision of Air-Conditioner, Air-Cooler etc, no separate queues for senior citizens, ladies, patients, physically-challenged persons etc and no furnished waiting place for the public. The Postmasters are often seen working with non-standard broken furniture depicting a very sub-standard look of the POs which distract the customers from the POs.
One day India Post had the monopoly on mails, insurance and small savings. But now there are private courier companies to compete with mails, LIC and other private insurance companies to compete with PLI / RPLI and public / private sector banks to compete with savings bank and other financial products. The priority of these private players is to invite the customer with attractive ambiences apart from guaranteeing effective service delivery. But the poor Postmasters of the POs are not even able to offer the customer a glass of cold water to drink. What to speak of other things. Their administrative and financial powers are too limited.
In spite of all such difficulties, India Post has been able to serve the entire nation with a human touch maintaining its iconic status as a unique and trusted national institution and demonstrating the highest order of integrity, honesty, transparency and professionalism only due to a team of dedicated staff starting with GDS. Now there is urgent need to revive the ambiences of all POs including BOs. Just opening of POs without basic amenities, standard counter / furniture may not carry forward its goodwill. As reported, the fully furnished Cambridge Layout 3D Printed Post Office was completed in just 43 days with an estimate of 23 lakhs for an area of 1021 square feet which is 30-40% less from normal construction. In all the 457 Postal Divisions under 23 Postal Circles, innumerable vacant lands are under possession of India Post. The Department needs to construct more number of 3D Printed POs and increase the ambience level to be the preferred, trusted and reliable service partner for all customers.