Sunday, October 13, 2013

One of the most enduring symbols of  India as a nation is the post man who makes his daily round, come rain or shine. The famous Malayalam humour writer Gopalakrishnan, who had a long and meritorious service in the Railways, as well as Kerala’s former Chief Election Officer T N Jayachandran have written that the first person they befriend on being transferred to a new place is the post man! Such is the friendliness and charm of the postal service – one of the most people friendly and accessible of the Government services.

            For more than 150 years, the Department of Posts (DoP) has been the backbone of the country’s communication and has played a crucial role in the country’s socio-economic development. 
  • It touches the lives of Indian citizens in many ways: delivering mails, accepting deposits under Small Savings Schemes, providing life insurance cover under Postal Life Insurance (PLI) and Rural Postal Life Insurance (RPLI) and providing retail services like bill collection, sale of forms, etc. 
  • The Department of Posts also acts as an agent for Government of India in discharging other services for citizens such as wages disbursement of the unique Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) as well as various old age pension payments.

            The Mission Statement of the Postal department says explicitly that the department will maintain its iconic status as a unique and trusted national institution by always providing the human touch in all our interactions with society, being responsive and reliable, demonstrating the highest order of integrity, honesty, transparency and professionalism and discharging our responsibilities towards the society in an environment of deep trust, mutual respect and a culture of service before self.

The latest figures say that there are 1,55, 515 post offices in the country. Of this 1,39,040 (89.78 percent) are in rural areas and 15,826 (10.22 percent) are in urban areas. This figure includes 25,464 departmental post offices and 1,29,402 extra-departmental branch post offices. At the time of Independence, there were 23,344 post offices. Moreover, these post offices were mainly in urban areas. The figures show that the network has increased by six times after Independence, with the focus primarily on rural areas.

On an average, a post office serves an area of 21.23 square kilometres (8.20 sq mi) and a population of 7,114. This could well make the Indian Postal System  the most widely distributed postal system in the World. 

Because of this mind boggling reach and the ubiquitous presence in remote areas, the Indian postal service is close to people and the people are close to the postal services!

As far as available records show, by 1861, there were 889 post offices in India. The system was handling nearly 43 million letters and over 4.5 million newspapers annually. It has to be remembered that the administration was taken over by the British government from the East India Company in 1858.

The establishment of the modern postal system in India can be traced back to the second half of the 18th century. For the facility of prepayment of postage on letters, 'Copper Tickets' , pre-paid token stamps in 2 annavalue were introduced from Patna in 1774 by the East India Company during the period of Warren Hastings, the then Governor General of India.

The postal system, established by Lord Clive in the year 1766, was further developed by Warren Hastings by establishing the Calcutta G.P.O. under a Postmaster General in the year 1774. Postal Service was open to the public for the first time.

 The first superintendent of the post office was appointed in 1870 and he was based in Allahabad.

At present, the Department of Posts comes under the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. The Postal Service Board, the apex management body of the Department, comprises the Chairman and six Members. The Joint Secretary and Financial Advisor to the Department is a permanent invitee to the Board. The Board is assisted by a senior staff officer of the Directorate as Secretary to the Board. Deputy Directors General, Directors and Assistant Directors General provide the necessary functional support for the Board at the Headquarters.

The world's first official airmail flight took place in India on 18 February 1911, a journey of 18 kilometres (11 mi) lasting 27 minutes. Henri Piquet, a French pilot, carried about 15 kilograms of mail (approximately 6,000 letters and cards) across the river Ganga from Allahabad to Naini. The mail thus carries is said to have included a letter addressed to King George the Fifth. 

The first floating post office was inaugurated in August 2011 at DalLake in Srinagar, Kashmir.

The first adhesive postage stamps in Asia were issued in the Indian district of Scinde in July 1852 by the then chief commissioner of the region. The Scinde stamps became known as Scinde Dawks", dawk being the English spelling of the Hindi word Dak or (post). These stamps, with a value of 12-anna, were in use until June 1866. 

The first all-India stamps were issued on 1 October 1854.

At present, the postal department is under the process of finalizing its IT enablement project.  Trends such as urbanisation, increased demand for financial services, increased funding by the government for the weaker sections and the rural sector, have opened up new opportunities for the Department of Posts. This has made necessary the development of new processes and supporting technology.

The department is also faced with twin challenges of increasing competition and continuing advances in communication technology, especially in mobile telephony and the Internet. In order to provide the best-in-class customer service, deliver new services and improve operational efficiencies, the Department of Posts has undertaken an end to end IT Modernization project to equip itself with requisite modern tools and technologies.

 The project, intends to achieve wider reach to the Indian populace through more customer interaction channels, better customer service, growth through new lines of business and enhanced IT enablement of business processes.


            The postal identity card is a service offered by the postal department under clause 63 of the postal guide. 

The card is basically meant for the benefit of tourists, traveling representatives of firms and other members of the public who experience difficulty in establishing their identity in connection with postal transactions, e.g., receipt of registered and insured articles and payment of money orders in the post town through which they pass. These cards will be obtainable at any head post office by literate persons whose identity is well established in the locality in which they reside or who can be vouched for by substantial permanent residents known to the postmaster.

              The card will contain a full description of its holder, his signature and photograph and will be current for a period of three years from the date of issue. After the expiry of the period of validity of the card, a fresh card will have to be applied for.

               The use of these cards is entirely optional. Holders will ordinarily receive delivery of postal articles and payment of money orders on their presentation but in cases of doubt it will be open to postmasters to make such further enquiry as they may consider necessary to establish the identity of the applicants.

             The cost of application for the card is Rs 20 and the card itself will cost Rs 250. In order to make the cards more attractive, they are being issued in the form of plastic cards like smart cards incorporating information like date of birth, telephone/mobile number and blood group in addition to the address of the person.

(PIB Features.)
National Postal Week -- 9th to 15th October.


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