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    Future of India Post – Challenges and Opportunities | DOP Future | Post Office Future Challenges & Oppurtunities | An Article By Bruhaspati Samal

    Future of India Post – Challenges and Opportunities.

    From pigeon to post, from bare foot to air route and from manual to digital, the importance of India Post in serving the mankind can’t be undermined.

    Bruhaspati Samal

    Mobile : 9437022669

    eMail: bsamalbbsr@gmail.com

    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. Due to 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. Though it serves 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 on one hand with ample opportunities to be a huge income centre and more importantly a force multiplier for the economy on the other, yet it is not free from several challenges especially from the clutches of corporatization. Before going for a detailed discussion of the future challenges and opportunities, it will be wise to reminisce its glorious official journey for last 168 years.

    1. The Glorious Background:

    “It makes the Post Office what under any other system it never can be the unrestricted means of diffusing knowledge, extending commerce and promoting in every way the social and intellectual improvement of the people” stated Lord Dalhousie, the father of India Post in his Minute dated 30th December, 1851. To prove this statement, honestly, if one searches about an organization which serves India, the land of heterogeneous racial, lingual, religious, and social culture upholding its rich cultural heritage through religious pluralism with Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Budhists, Jains etc. sharing their sorrows and happiness in nearly 2000 rationalized and identifiable mother tongues inclusive of 22 Scheduled languages door to door and protects the national unity, social cohesion, secular and federal structure and democratic ethos, certainly, the name of India Post comes to mind. Competently assisting the rulers, elite and mercantile community in its various forms in ancient and medieval times, it has conveniently served both the British rulers and general public in modern times as a forceful organization in raising national and political consciousness. Long before the times of email and mobile phones, pigeons, barefoot runners and bullock carts were used to carry messages from one part of India to another. The mail-runner in earlier times not only carried people's messages but their emotions and hopes. Without caring for the dense forests, wild beasts, intense heat, heavy shower or highway robbers, they used to march ahead with belled spears and serve the mankind heart and soul. Prior to independence, India Post, through a limited work force could be able to develop a vast network of communication even before the Railways and Telephones were introduced with wide spread impact on the socio-economic life of the nation through efficient and prompt service.

    2. The Growth:

    From pigeon to post, India Post has travelled a long way with the passage of time. From 23,344 Post Offices primarily opened in urban areas prior to independence catering to the needs of Britishers for development of their trade and exercising control over their vast Indian possessions with one Post Office serving 15038 persons covering an area of 53 square miles to 156434 Post Offices (141055 i.e. 90.17% in rural area and 15379 i.e. 9.83% in urban area ) as on 31.03.2021, India Post has registered nearly a seven fold growth during the period of last seven decades focusing its expansion to rural areas and thus has been acknowledged as the largest postal network in the world with one Post Office serving 8713 people in average (6336 in rural area and 30515 in urban area) covering an area of approximately 21.36 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.This has prompted Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, former President of India while inaugurating the Sesquicentennial Celebrations of India Post on 4th October, 2004 to say, “Post Office is the only institution in the country, which touches every person’s life. This is demonstrated by the fact that whenever government or non-government agencies attempt to reach the largest number of people, they think of the Post Office. I would like to congratulate the pioneering spirit, resilience and the glorious traditions of providing quality service of this Department, which is now 150 years old, to the common man spread in all parts of the country.”

    3. The Challenges: Past, Present and Future:

    Briefly, India Post is now having the following challenges.

    ➢ India Post has touched the life of every citizen for more than 168 years through mails, banking, insurance, money transfers, and various retail services, enjoying the trust and support of its customers and stake holders which need to be continued.

    ➢ With spread of telephone, internet and modernised banking, insurance and mail services, citizen are used to new level of speed, transparency and quality which India Post to address.

    ➢ In India, customers of the postal service expect India Post to provide a service level to industry standards maintained by banks, insurance and similar other competitors.

    ➢ The customers of the Department of Posts, expects an expanded range of its existing services with the use of IT with higher quality of services.

    ➢ Customers today have a number of alternatives to most of the products and services offered by India Post and as such, the existing customers are to be retained.

    ➢ To meet the emergence of electronic alternatives

    ➢ To face the demanding customers

    ➢ To face the organised / unorganised couriers for mail conveyance.

    ➢ To face the financial players like banks and insurance companies.

    ➢ Challenges of Globalisation, Corporatisation, and Liberalisation.

    ➢ India Post provides last mile delivery to important government schemes e.g., MGNREGS, UIDAI related services, old age pensions, scholarship to weaker sections which directly impact the common citizen of the country. The challenge of Improvement of quality services and greater transparency through IT services for contributing to inclusive growth is the need of the hour.

    ➢ Developments in other Postal Administrations also warrant development of India Post.

    Thus, to sum up, India Post has to face two important challenges as follows and to meet the twin challenges, it has to concentrate on transformation and business development.

    i. Transformation:

    Passing through ages, India Post has never remained as a service department only. 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, there are several challenges before India Post especially in the field of its core sectors relating to Mails, Banking and Insurance 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.

    Briefing the Department’s long journey from pigeon post to e-post, it is evident that India Post actively entered into the digital era through counter mechanization installing 102 personal computer-based MPCMs in 22 selected Post Offices during the year 1990 – 91 and conceived the Project Arrow concept in April, 2008 under “Look & Feel Good” concept. Aiming at transforming the India Posts’ operational efficiency and improving service delivery of operational and administrative units through upgraded technology and connectivity, the IT Modernization Project of India Post was approved by the Government of India in November 2012 as a Mission Mode e-governance Project with an outlay of Rs. 4909 crores. The project includes providing Central Server based integrated, modular and scalable solutions for all the operations of India Post including Mails, Human Resource, Banking, Insurance, Finance and Accounts along with creation of IT Infrastructure like Data Centre, Disaster Recovery Centre, setting up of Wide Area Network (WAN) and providing solar powered and portable hand-held computing devices to all branch Post Offices.

    There were so many legacy issues and challenges to digitize this largest postal network of the world with 1.56 lakh Post Offices in different status, Viz; Branch Post Office, Sub Post Office, Mukhya Dak Ghar, Head Post Office and General Post Office, RMS Offices etc. in addition to several administrative offices like Divisional Offices, Circle Offices, Training Centres, Postal Store Depots, Circle Stamp Depots etc. But India Post with the sacrifice and devotion of its dedicated and hardworking workforce could do it and moved from a stand-alone local server-based operation to a uniform central server-based operation. The network connectivity through a Wide Area Network (WAN) has been established at 26,708 Departmental locations as on 31.12.2021. By 31st December, 2021, 25046 Departmental Post Offices are providing Core Banking Services (CBS) to Post Office Savings Bank (POSB) customers along with e-banking facilities. Further, it has also digitalized the finance & accounts and human resource management functions of the Department on the online, SAP based platform. 505 Postal & RMS Divisions (out of total 511 Divisions) + 12 independent Head Post offices / GPOs have been rolled out in CSI as on 31.12.2021. 1000 ATMs which are inter-operable by other banks have been installed preferably in district headquarters. Postal Life Insurance (PLI) services are being provided through Core Insurance Solution (CIS) in 25409 Departmental Post Offices. 1,29,380 Branch Post Offices have been supplied with solar powered and portable hand-held computing devices under the Rural System Integrator (RSI) as on 31.12.2021. Beyond March 2022 the Department proposes to take forward the IT Infrastructure maintenance, upgradation and technology refresh through the DoP IT Modernizaion 2.0 Project

    ii. Business Development:

    India Post, through establishment of a Business Directorate has introduced several new products and services. National Postal Policy has been formulated to develop services that assist, facilitate, enhance and quicken the process of development aimed at inclusive growth and to reposition India Post to become a self-sufficient, credible, efficient, quick and cost–effective provider of these services. Apart from its traditional services, viz, Mail Operations, Post Office Small Savings Schemes and Postal Life Insurance including Rural Postal Life Insurance, it is just trying to do more than what it can to stay relevant today.

    In this article, rather than its traditional services relating to mail, finance and insurance, we are just highlighting the additional products and services of India Post which have been introduced for meeting the future challenges to stay relevant in the existing scenario.

    a. Financial Services: To cater the needs of NRI dependent families in India, visiting international tourists and foreign students studying in India, the Department in collaboration with the Western Union Financial Services, USA operates International Money Transfer Service

    through the Post Offices in India which enables instantaneous remittance of money from 195 countries to India. The electronic money order, i.e. eMO which has been launched in October 2008, facilitates transmission of ordinary money orders from all the computerized Post Offices through electronic media without any extra charge. The International Financial System (IFS) Money Order service is operational with La Poste Group, France and UAE. The remittances received under this service are being paid through our eMO service network. e‐Payment is a 'Many to One' service through which bills and taxes etc. are paid by customers in thousands of identified computerized Post Offices across the country. The Department of Posts introduced ECS scheme on 9th August 2003 which facilitates depositors to get MIS interest automatically transferred and credited into their SB account on the due dates at the designated Bank of their choice. Currently, the service is available in the Department of Posts at 15 RBI locations and 21 SBI locations. Post Office also acts as a Point of Presence - Service Provider (POP-SP) for National Pension System. It also operates various Jansuraksha Schemes, namely, Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojna (PMJJBY), Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojna (PMSBY) and Atal Pension Yojna (APY). With an objective to leverage the strength of the postal network and skills, Department of Posts has started retailing mutual funds and bonds. At present, selected schemes of UTI Mutual Fund only are retailed through the designated Post Offices in the country through NISM/EUIN certified staff. The Department of Posts is discharging the responsibility to disburse the wages to MGNREGS beneficiaries through Post Office Savings Bank account. The Department of Posts in collaboration with NABARD is providing the facility of micro‐credit to Self Help Groups (SHGs) through identified Post Offices on agency basis. India Post has tied up with State Bank of India to sell its assets and liability products through identified Post Offices. Old Age Pension is being paid through Post Office Savings Accounts and Money Orders. As a tie‐up with Reliance Money Limited, sale of gold coins has been launched on 15th October, 2008 as part of retail post in selected Post Offices.

    b. Other Services: To meet the challenges, India Post is also emerging as a potential service provider to other organizations. It has revolutionized the way it used to function before adopting varieties of products and services starting from selling of movie tickets in urban area to agriculture insurance in rural area.

    Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation (MOSP) has entrusted the job of collecting statistics for ascertaining the Rural Price Index from several identified Post Offices across the country with effect from Oct 2009.

    India Post has been assisting other public authorities under the Central Government in implementing the RTI Act by providing services of its designated Central Assistant Public Information Officers (CAPIOs). For this, Sub Post Masters at Tehsil level act as the Central Assistant Public Information officer (CAPIO) for accepting RTI requests and appeals from all central Government Departments.

    Through 'Retail Post' Department offers convenience to the general public by making third party products and services available in their vicinity through select Post Offices. Retail Post leverages the vast network of 1.56 lakh Post Offices across the country.

    13,352 Aadhaar Enrolment cum Updation Centres have been set up pan India Post to provide Aadhaar related services to the residents of India. Since its inception in June 2017 till November 2021 around 97.79 lakh Enrollments and 348.81 lakh Updations have been done by Post Office Aadhaar Centres, generating a revenue of about Rs. 170.30 crore for the Department.

    India Post through selected Post Offices across the country makes Gangajal bottles available for the convenience of public. It is available on the online portals i.e. e-Commerce Portal and e-Post Office Portal of Department.

    India Post and Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) have mutually agreed for leveraging the network of Post Office Passport Seva Kendras (POPSK) in order to provide passport services to citizens on a larger scale and to ensure wider area coverage for the benefits of the citizens. The facility has brought convenience to the general public in making passport services available in their vicinity through Post Offices and saved citizens from travelling long distances in order to obtain a Passport. Since inception from January 2017 to December 2021 around 67.27 Lakhs Passport Applications have been processed by 428 PoPSKs generating an accrued revenue of 222.01 crore for the department.

    In order to provide Railway Tickets at the doorstep of the public, Railway Reservation Tickets of all classes are booked at selected Post Offices where there is no Rail head/Railway counters. The service is presently made available at 323 Post Offices across India especially in rural and semi-rural areas.

    The list of services continues like this including delivery of Prasad and other holy offerings from religious shrines / place of worship.

    C. Services as CSC:

    With the success of the above citizen centric services to the satisfaction of its customers, now, India Post is planning to extend the number of Common Service Centres (CSCs) to 6000 more Post Offices with addition of as many as 111 such services including the above existing services. Among other important services, the proposed CSCs will provide Mobile Updates, Demographic Updates, PAN Card, Swachh Bharat Aviyan, PM Aawas Yojana, PM Fasal Bima Yojana, PDS, Ayusman Bharat Yojana, Birth / Death Certificate, Jiban Praman, IRCTC Ticket Booking, Election / Labour / Pension / Employment related services, several State Govt. services, Tours and Travel Services like Flight and Bus Ticket, Mobile and DTH recharge, FASTag related services and several educational services. 

    4. Major barriers to meet the challenges:

    i. Impact of Corporatization / Privatization:

    The most important barrier to meet the present challenges faced by India Post is the challenge of privatization through step-by-step corporatization and outsourcing with opening of franchise outlets in the name of Dak Mitra.

    In 2014, the Union Government constituted a Task Force on Leveraging the Post Office Network headed by Shri T.S.R. Subramaian Ex. Cabinet Secretary, Govt. of India. The Committee submitted its report in Novemeber-2014 recommending to divide India Post in to six units. i.e. (i) Banking and financial services (ii) Insurance (PLI/RPLI), (iii) Distribution of third-party products (Services on behalf of private parties on payment basis), (iv) Management of Govt. services (v) Parcel & Packets and (vi) communication delivery. The first five units were designated as Strategic Business Units and sixth unit was left to deliver mails at subsidized rates. Under Deptt. of Posts, a holding company “India Post (Financial and other services) Corporation Limited” was recommended to be formed. The Corporation would consist of Board of Members and one Chairman from the Board members. All the five separate subsidiary companies would also have separate Boards. In the course of time, Govt. might disinvest its part of holding and new corporation would raise fund from share market and thereafter would also be listed in share market in future. It was stated in the report that five Subsidiary Companies would make profit and contribute to meet the loss of sixth unit. The Task Force Committee also recommended for amendment of Indian Post Office Act 1898 and to bring another Postal Act. “India Post (Financial and other services)” Corporation Act for reorganization of Deptt. of Posts by creating new Corporate Structure.

    In the meantime, the banking and financial sector has been corporatized since 01.09.2018 in the name of India Post Payments Bank Limited (IPPB) as the first PSU under Department of Posts with the Certificate of Incorporation from the Registrar of Companies, Ministry of Corporate Affairs under the Companies Act 2013. Now the department has decided to set up an insurance company as another Strategic Business Unit in the next phase to implement the recommendations of the Task Force Committee. It is well predicted that this age-old Govt. establishment is running ahead rapidly on the way of corporatization. In this context, briefly discussing about the IPPB, the first PSU of India Post, we can say that the customers of India Post are not showing that much of interest due to several deficiencies. For gaining some predefined facilities, the IPPB Account is linked with the Post Office Savings Bank Account. While the POSB Account is offering interest @ 4% per annum for deposits without any upper limit, IPPB Account offers interest @ Rs.2.50% and @ 2.75% per annum on balance up to Rs. 1 lakh and for incremental balances above Rs. 1 lakh and up to Rs. 2 lakh respectively. In addition, while there was no charges initially for Door Step Banking (DSB) by postal employees, the very purpose of its establishment with exquisite slogan “AAP KE BANK AAP KE DWAR’, now a sum of Rs. 20/- plus GST is being charged from the customers with effect from 01.09.2021 which is creating resentments amongst the customers. Not only DSB, but several other facilities like cash deposits and withdrawals, fund transfer, standing instruction, POSB sweep-in and sweep-out, payment for DOP products (SSA, PPF, RD and LARD), mobile postpaid, bills payment etc. are charged at the above rate for which customers are running away from IPPB. Though Department of Posts introduced Post Office Savings Bank (POSB) on 01.04.1882, the foundations of the Govt. Savings Bank were laid in the year 1833 when the first Bank was opened in Calcutta (Kolkata) for investment of the savings of all classes – British and native. Since then, POSB is offering highest rates of interest in S B Account providing services free of charges. The lower rate of interest and several charges for services is discouraging the members of public and thereby affecting the POSB business directly since the Department is applying forceful methods through the staff members to link the POSB Accounts to IPPB Accounts.

    Further, the IPPB is also creating confusion amongst the esteemed customers of Postal Life Insurance when it campaigns for Bajaj Allianz Life POS Goal Suraksha on behalf of India Post. Department of Posts entered into insurance sector in 1884 with introduction of Postal Life Insurance (PLI) on 1st February, 1884. There should not be a conflict of interest with PLI being the oldest insurance in the country with ‘Low Premium, High Bonus’ and having access to each individual citizen of India through the vast network of the Postal Department. The dual role of IPPB is certainly a hurdle to meet the challenges faced by PLI / RPLI. Though IPPB is poised to create a national payments architecture riding on a modern payment platform and ubiquitous information and communication technologies that can be accessed by all users and service providers like never before, yet its aspiration to become the most accessible bank in the world riding on state of the art banking and payments technology is yet to be achieved even after a period of 3 years. The core officials of IPPB instead of doing things to increase their own business are seen to be quite dependent on the Post Office staff and engaged in diverting / converting the POSB businesses to IPPB business which is presently the biggest hurdle before POSB and the Department

    As such, under the circumstances, establishment of additional PSUs for Insurance, Parcel etc. as recommended by the Task Force Committee needs to be reconsidered by the Government.

    ii. Lack of financial autonomy:

    The Department does not find any financial autonomy and commercial flexibility to respond to market forces quickly and efficiently. Though the Department earns more than 40% of its total income from PO Small Savings Schemes, yet it acts as a corporate agent of the Ministry of Finance with a meagre commission against opening of Accounts. While the Fix Deposit Accounts and Cash Certificates (now also in form of Accounts) can be pledged in Banks by the holders for availing loan, the Post Offices are not conferred with such power to honour its own instruments as above. All the facilities of Savings Bank given to the banks should be given to POSB also to compete and increase its share in the financial market.

    iii. Least workers’ participation in management:

    Article 43 A of the Constitution of India provides that the State shall endeavour to secure, by suitable legislation or economic organization or in any other way, to all workers, agricultural, industrial or otherwise, work, a living wage, conditions of work ensuring a decent standard of life and full enjoyment of leisure and social and cultural opportunities and, in particular, the State shall endeavour to promote cottage industries on an individual or co-operative basis in rural areas. With 42nd Amendment Act, 1976, Article 43 A of the Constitution of India, the State is conferred with the power to bring in suitable suitable legislation or apply some other way to secure the participation of workers in management of undertakings, establishments or other organizations engaged in any industry.

    While workers’ participation in management is a tool to promote better industrial relations nurturing the different conflicting interests of both the employees and employers brining both parties together by mutual understanding and there by establishing industrial peace, this important concept is highly ignored by India Post. While the workers become the partner in decision making process, they become enthusiastic to exploit their full efficiency for the betterment of the organization which results in increased productivity safeguarding everybody’s interest and industrial democracy. Further, workers’ participation in management helps in arriving at a unanimous decision whether to accept or reject any change. The changes which bring more benefits than the costs incurred on them, are accepted. Hence the changes are welcomed by the employees. Participation helps workers to express their creative instinct and they respond favourably to the challenges at the workplace as regards performance of the job. For better participation of the employees and workers in the management of the Department, there are clear provisions of conducting four-monthly meetings with the Circle Heads, bi-monthly meetings with the Regional Heads and monthly meeting with the Divisional Heads. The decision of the Chairman, Postal Services Board taken in the 14th Ordinary Meeting of Postal Departmental Council (JCM) held on 04.01.1993 with direction to all Circles vide DG (P) letter No. 31-1/92-SR, dated 26.02.1993 to hold the periodical meetings with the unions as per prescribed periodicity is worth referring here. The instructions have been reiterated vide DG (P) letter No. 8/15/2011-SR, dated 01.02.2012. Further as per the Directorate D O letter No. 02-02/2018-SR, dated 22nd May, 2018 circulated to all Circle / Regional / Divisional / Unit Heads, the periodical meetings should be held within the due date without any plea of administrative exigencies, rush of work, busy schedules, other engagements etc. In addition, as enjoined in Directorate letter No. 10-3/87-SR, dated

    08.03.1988, the letters received from the Unions / Associations should be acknowledged promptly and the matter in question decided as expeditiously as possible, If the decision in the matter is likely to get delayed for some time, an interim reply should invariably be sent to the concerned Union / Association. It should also be ensured that in case the officer or the dealing hand concerned with the matter is on leave, some alternative arrangements should be made to attend the letters received from the Unions / Associations urgently. But most unfortunately, at this critical juncture, when India Post is rapidly moving from manual to digital, implementation of the above constitutional provision, guidelines and instructions is seriously lacking in the Department of Posts now a day. Rather every action is being taken intentionally to avoid the Staff Side. The action of the administration with regard to conducting periodical meetings, honouring / acknowledging the letters of the Staff Side containing problems and suggestions, communicating action taken report to the Staff Side etc. are very discouraging. The leadership is targeted by the administration on flimsy ground and threatened with charge-sheets and disciplinary actions. The staff members are forced to be demotivated. Several decisions against the welfare of the Department and its employees are taken without least consultation with the Staff Side. Rather, very tactfully, the Department is squeezing the trade union rights of the employees through arbitrary implementation of the conditions of Rule 15 (1) (c) of CCS (Conduct) Rules, 1964 on the Service Unions / Associations / Federations which are functioning under the purview of CCS (RSA), Rules, 1993. The future of India Post will certainly be apprehensive if the administration ignores the participation of the staff members in decision making.

    iv. Improper services by the authorized vendors:

    As discussed earlier, the whole digitization process of India Post is being accelerated through IT Modernization project, 2012 which was designed to be implemented in 8 contracts, viz; Rural ICT-Hardware, Rural ICT-System Integrator, Data Centre facility, Core System Integrator, Financial Services System Integrator, Network Integrator, Mail Operations Hardware and Change Management Vendor. The responsibility of all the designated vendors are defined to supply and install Rural ICT Hardware devices and provide for network connectivity, to develop the platform for all applications , to provide centralized Data Centre Facility for hosting all applications and Disaster Recovery Center, to be the core integrator for all the applications that will run in the post and mail offices, cater to deployment of Postal Banking & Insurance solutions, to ensure networking of DoP’s departmental offices across India and design DoP networks including network security, to be responsible for procurement of hardware for Postal and Mail Processing offices and to manage change and prepare the staff for this massive IT modernization project of Department of Posts by conducting surveys and understanding concerns of postal employees respectively.

    But most regretfully, even after one decade, the Department has not been able to restore smooth network connectivity to all the Post Offices which have been migrated to CBS and CIS platform. Everyday, the employees especially working in Post Offices are facing problems of sluggish connectivity and falling prey to the customers’ anger. The responses of both the designated vendors and the immediate authorities are not at all satisfactory which is directly affecting the functioning and reputation of this vast Department. Similar is the situation is case of hardware supply. No Post Office is having any additional / standby computer accessories. Even for replacement of a mouse, key-board, scanner etc found defective during the working hours, the Postmasters have to wait for the approval of the Divisional Head since they have no such financial / administrative power for instant purchase. Most of the time, the UPS, generator and other valuable equipment are remaining out of AMC. Old and obsolete hardware are not timely replaced even after expiry of their scheduled life. The sudden modification in the software with introduction of patch files put both the customers and employees into troubles. The training programmes are always conducted to suit the need of the Department ignoring the need of the employees.

    The lack of seriousness of the authorities to solve these regular issues has put a challenge on increasing business and customers’ satisfaction.

    v. Deficiency of Centralized Delivery System including NDCs:

    The Department had adopted Central Delivery System for delivery of Speed Post articles when the service was started in August 1986 for providing time bound and express delivery of letters and parcels. This became a big failure when the Department couldn’t meet time bound norms as guaranteed under Citizen Charter. As a result, the Department changed its earlier decision and Speed Post articles were delivered through respective delivery post offices throughout the country As per the report of Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), Speed Post delivers with

    maximum accuracy. But most unfortunately, the Department has now committed the same mistake once again by establishing the Nodal Delivery Centres for delivery of all parcels and Speed Post articles beyond certain weight limits.

    It is quite surprising that in spite of several attempts by the Staff Side to make the Department understand the difficulties of no delivery in addition to delayed delivery of the parcels by the NDCs increasing the deposits, customers’ resentments and the plight of the staff members working in NDCs, no tangible step is being taken for early solution. Rather most unfortunately, the Department is forcefully and arbitrarily issuing orders to work on Sundays and Holidays which is not at all a solution. Most importantly, while the delivery staff of the local delivery post offices are quite acquainted with the beat area, the delivery staff of NDCs are quite ignorant of the delivery area they are assigned with which is the main reason for delayed delivery or no delivery of parcels and thereby decreasing the delivery percentage in addition to huge expenditure in terms of additional vehicles and establishment which has been created on diversion from the existing establishment from various post offices. If the Department doesn’t realize the issue and start decentralizing parcel delivery through respective delivery post offices, this may lead to a serious damage to the mail delivery system of the Department.

    vi. Deficiency in Change Management Plan:

    As a result of technological changes, all operational, administrative and accounting units of this vast postal network are being affected with new management system. The Circles, Regions, Divisions and Post Offices are dealing with implementation of multiple solutions. Therefore, employees from all levels are inducted to the changes for capacity building, augmenting training infrastructure, achieving computer literacy at all levels etc. to run a massive change management plan. But while analyzing the process the Department has adopted to meet the challenges, we find that the computer literacy programme only aims at imparting training on different modules / packages in operation by the Department. Barring the new entrants, most of the senior officials do not know the fundamentals of computer. There is no plan to redesign the computer training programmes.

    Further, the Technology Wing and Business Development Cell are neither managed by Technically and Management qualified personnel nor there is a plan for direct recruitment of such personnel from open market. It is a matter of regret that the Department implemented the I T Modernization Project 2012 with the help of the Postal Assistants forcefully just renaming them as System Administrator (SA) without any extra remuneration or recognition. Similar is the case of Business / Marketing Executives BE/ME). The conditions of the PLI Development Officers beggar description. In the recent past, though their nomenclature was changed from DO (PLI) to Group Leaders, the same was again redesignated as DO(PLI). It is certainly a bitter experience that the Department is still experimenting on these workforces through PLI exists since 1884. It is very much surprising also to witness that when these workforces, viz, SA, BE/ME and DO(PLI) become matured gaining vast experience in the field of marketing, instead of exploiting their vast experience for the benefit of business / technology development, they are reverted back to their parent cadre, i.e. Postal Assistant. This deficiency needs to be addressed to meet the future challenges in the field of technology and business development.

    vii. Deficiency in National Postal Policy:

    The National Postal Policy broadly speaks that urban postal and financial services are essential in order to maintain the flow of funds between urban and rural residents and it is necessary to ensure safe and quick transmission of moneys. Since the competitors for such urban services are aggressive and efficient private players, India Post should enhance and improve its delivery of urban services in order to offer comparative standards of performance. But in the name of rationalization and optimization, our department is giving more space for the private companies to occupy more share in the mail market segment. We have already discussed the role of NDCs inviting ineffective delivery.

    viii. Lapses in protecting staff interest:

    The basis of any policy of sustainability and growth, especially of labour intensive activities, is the productivity, capacity and morale of its personnel. But as we realized the employees at grass root level, especially the Group-C employees ( PA / Postman) and GDS of the Department who are directly responsible for smooth implementation of all the policies and decisions are highly depressed. We have witnessed that increased productivity and higher performance are not receiving appropriate incentives in the Department and the interests of the workforce of India Post are not being

    safeguarded. The demands of the Staff Side with scientific approaches to meet the future challenges are either overlooked or totally sidelined and the department is blindly going ahead with unscientific proposals. Instead, they are forced to work on Sundays / Holidays with threatening of disciplinary actions and thus compelled to ignore their health and social responsibilities which has a negative impact on the overall productivity standing as a challenge to the growth and development of the Department. Economic growth without workers’ rights and social protection does not amount to development. Fundamentally, development must also be about people’s ability to shape their own lives.

    ix. Lack of interest in advertising the products and services:

    Customers are the people who buy the product only after they are made aware of the products available in the market. When they come to know about the range of products, they are able to compare the products and buy so that they get what they desire after spending their valuable money. Traditionally printed marketing was the whole sole method of conveying the messages to the consumers. However, in recent times advertisements through electronic media, viz; eMails, SMS, blogs, television, radio and websites have become the trendy way of conveying the organization’s message to the consumers. While advertising plays a very important role in today’s age of competition, India Post is seen not be serious for advertising its services and products in comparison to other banks and financial institutions / insurance organizations. Illustratively, through repeated advertisements only through print and electronic media, while LIC founded in the year 1956 has become a popular household name, people are yet to know about PLI introduced since 1884. Similar is the fate of Mail and SB products.

    5. The Opportunities:

    In spite of all the barriers discussed above, India Post still has ample opportunities to meet the challenges and accelerate its growth and development with the help of its following strengths.

    ➢ It is the only network of post offices spread throughout the country with responsibility of providing communication, banking and insurance services and products to every resident. 

    ➢ It has an extraordinary goodwill among the people, who have no problem in gaining easy access to its network. 

    ➢ It is the oldest institution of the Govt. of India, which is well known to the customers and has well established and time tested procedures. 

    ➢ Workforce of the Rural Post Offices are mainly local and therefore known to the community served by the Post Office. 

    ➢ It has a large and skilled man power. 

    ➢ Many of the products and services have features which are suitable for the average citizen, daily delivery on door step, delivery in cash at door step for money orders and small transactions in post office savings bank. 

    ➢ Its operations are funded by the public exchequer.

    Regime after regime has viewed India Post as a cost centre. But, India Post has the potential to be a huge income centre and more importantly a force multiplier for the economy. India Post has the potential to be the flyover that can link rural India with urban India. It has the potential to accelerate savings through financial inclusion. It can be the real and virtual market platform for farmers. It can deliver both credit and insurance to small farmers and micro enterprises. It is also the ideal one-stop shop for government services.

    Post Offices can be identified as a hub for the provision of electronic connectivity and knowledge connectivity to the village community leading to economic connectivity of the village clusters for providing urban amenities in rural areas through which rural economy can be enhanced with provision of knowledge inputs at the right time to the farmers, artisans, craftsmen, small-scale industries, self-help groups and entrepreneurs.

    India has approximately 2.50 lakhs Village Panchayats and almost every Panchayat has either a Post Office or Panchayat Sanchar Sewa Kendra which can be utilized as nodal center for knowledge connectivity for the villagers with computer terminals, telephone and internet connections and other support facilities for functioning as a digital library.

    India Post has 1.41 lakh (90% of the total number of Post Offices in India) rural Post Offices including branch and Sub Post Offices. The Gramin Dak Sewaks who are quite popular and closely working with the rural people for 3 to 5 hours a day can be deployed in the process of knowledge management which will not only make them eligible to work full time for the Department enriching their contribution to the society but also provide cost-effective digital library and information services to the village community.

    Presently, India Post has signed MoU with different revenue authorities for despatch of land records especially Mutation Certificates through Speed Post to the land owners. But the Post Offices can help the revenue authorities in computerizing all the land records in the villages and also they can arrange billing to the landlords on yearly or half yearly basis which are presently maintained manually. Through the concerted efforts of all the stakeholders over a period, Post Offices can be used as an appropriate platform for agricultural practices, monsoon prediction, local medical knowledge, advanced medical counselling centers etc. All these things can be done for a nominal fee that can make the postal network also viable. Above all, India Post has the ability to convert the vision of a new India into reality by proper utilization of its vast network. Just a sense of urgency is required for a large-scale training and motivation of the postal employees to achieve the national development goal.

    Every initiative will drive employment, income generation and growth. This can happen not by corporatization but allowing freedom and flexibility to the Postal Department so that it could restructure itself and operate competently with functional autonomy and financial independence having a separate budget and control by the Department of Posts. Corporatization is not the only solution to make the loss-making India Post profitable.

    6. Conclusion:

    When the possibility of the existence of a civilized state cannot be conceived without the cooperation of this vast organization of effective communication which has legitimately conquered so important place in Indian social, political, religious, cultural and economic atmosphere, there can be no threat to India Post in future provided the Department works with the collective mindset of the employees, clients, customers and vendors paying due honour to their voice for rights, social protection and decision-making which are the basic components of economic growth since in the era of globalization, an organization will only sustain if it wins the confidence of all the stakeholders. Then only, the commitment of India Post to meeting the challenges of the economy and to ensure connectivity, communication and financial services to every citizen can be found feasible.

    To conclude, it can only be said that since India Post has occupied the nervous system which transmits the words and thoughts of the nation, its significance can be better understood by visualizing its absence due to corporatization. All stakeholders should work consistently so that the existence of this vast organization may not be jeopardized.

    (BRUHASPATI SAMAL)

    Postmaster (HSG-I NFG)

    Sahidnagar MDG, Bhubaneswar-751007,

    Ex- All India Organizing General Secretary

    AIPEU, Gr-C, CHQ, New Delhi,

    Leader (Staff Side)

    Regional JCM, Odisha Postal Circle

    Chairman

    NFPE, Odisha State CoC &

    Circle Secretary

    AIPEU, Group-C, Odisha Circle



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