Saturday, November 14, 1998
By Jatinder Singh Bedi
LIKE other services, the postal services in Chandigarh are not as effective in the southern sectors as they are in northern ones. Of the 47 post offices (POs) in the city, only five delivery offices cater to the sectors south of Dakshin Marg. The letters and parcels too are delivered once a day there, where as in the northern sectors the mail comes twice.
As per the central directives, the number of post offices stipulated for an area depends on its population and the business that is expected to be transacted since Chandigarh is a planned city, a post office had been earmarked for each sector.
This design has been followed in the northern sectors. Almost all 30 sectors, north of Dakshin Marg, have got a post office. There are 35 post offices, including six extra departmental offices (EDOs), for those sectors and their dependent colonies. Some even have more than one post office. In Sector 9, adjoining buildings of the CDA (WC) and the UT Secretariat have been provided with a post office each. Besides these, there is a third post office in the market.
In contrast, the Chandigarh Postal Division has discriminated against the southern sectors. These are the sectors where the density of population is much higher due to their multistorey apartments, EWS flats, labour colonies and the dependent rural areas. To cater to the 25 southern sectors, only 13 post offices have been provided. The rural areas depend upon the additional four EDOs. The Chief Postmaster General, Punjab Circle, Colonel Tilak Raj, attributes this to the late development of the southern sectors.
The dak delivery system calls for improvement too. Against the 13 delivery post offices (DPOs) in the north, there are only five for the southern sectors. Even if one does not go by numbers, a glance at their sector dependency proves the point. While the Sector 36 DPO delivers mail to eight sectors, the Sector 47 DPOcaters to six sectors. The adjoining overcrowded labour colonies too are dependent on these DPOs. The load is not as heavy for the DPOs of the north. To cite comparative examples: the Sector 15 DPO caters to only sectors 15 and 16; the Sector 11 DPO to sectors 10 and 11 and so on. Defending this imbalance, the postal authorities state that additional postmen have been provided to the POs with a heavier delivery load. But the ground reality narrates a different tale. As is the rule, mail is delivered twice a day in most of the northern sectors, while residents of the southern sectors complain of only one delivery a day and that too comes later in the day, around 4.30 p.m. Sharing the concern of these residents, Santokh Singh, former General Secretary, All-India Postal Administrative Office Employees Union, recommends that the beats of the postmen should be scientifically evaluated. The additional effort involved to deliver mail in the multistorey buildings should be catered for too, he stresses.
Two factors seem to be adversely affecting the city postal services expensive accommodation and paucity of manpower.
What to speak of opening new post offices, some of the existing ones are facing closure due to high rents.
As local officials are not in a position to increase the rent, certain busy post offices are likely to shut down. Catering to the entire industrial area, the Ram Darbar post office runs from a dingy room hired at about Rs 500 a month.
Faced with eviction orders, it is now being merged with the new Industrial Area PO.
It is not that the Administration has dissociated itself from the concept of a post office a sector. It has reserved plots for post offices all over, but the high cost of land and no clearance from the Centre seem to be compelling the Postal Department to have second thoughts about the concept. Colonel Tilak Raj states that "space in Chandigarh is a problem". With the Indian Postal Services running in loss, he says, it is difficult to pay the high market rents. Twelve plots for post offices in different sectors are lying vacant.
Despite these handicaps, the department endeavours to provide best services to the residents, says Mula Singh Saini, Superintendent (Headquarters). To facilitate speedier sorting, three separate channels have been commissioned in the city. These are Rajdhani, Green and Business channel. The Rajdhani channel is meant for the mail destined for Delhi and the Green channel for the local mail. The business channel is for the bulk parcel mail from business houses. Colour coded letter boxes have been installed at post offices for the purpose.
Seventeen counters for speed post have been provided in the city. But the rail service schedule at times adversely affects the despatch of the mail. The sorting office despatches the speed post letters and articles only twice by Howrah Mail at 1.10 a.m. and by Ekta Express at 5.20 p.m. As Chandigarh is not on the trunk railway route, few trains come this way. So the entire outgoing dak from Chandigarh is dispatched to Ambala Cantonment for onward dispersion. The number of articles sent daily by speed post on an average in Chandigarh is 219. Much advertised speedy delivery under speed post has another facet to it, explains an official, not willing to be named. The incoming speed post reaching the GPO before 8 a.m. through Chandigarh sorting office is dispatched to local offices for delivery. But the speed post letters arriving at or after 11 a.m. are delivered in the next days bag, he alleges.
Departmental efforts are on to modernise the post offices in the city. Six post offices have already been modernised. Modernisation amounts to changing the interior decor besides the installation of already multipurpose counter machine (MPCM), which basically is a computer based window. Thirty MPCMs have been installed in Chandigarh, including 11 in the Sector 17 GPO. None have been installed in the southern sectors.
The registrations, money orders, speed post, telephone bills all can be transacted by the same machine. Consequently the manual counters have been suspended and the single MPCM has been assigned all types of transactions. This has led to never-ending queues of customers.
Official attribute these problems to scarcity of manpower in the department. The postal network has widened in the country since Independence. There are over 1,53,000 post offices in India today against 22,000 in 1947. Accordingly, the business has increased too. But with the ban on new recruitment since 1984, the post offices are starved of manpower. The GPO at Sector 17 is supposed to have a staff of 144 persons. It holds only 95. The shortage is felt by the consumers at the service counters. Of over 25 windows at the GPO, only eight have been allocated for multipurpose business. Of these too, only four function. While Avtar Singh, Senior Postmaster who heads the GPO, admits that "the staff is overworked", Santokh Singh blames it on improper evaluation of work. He adds that norms through which the posts are sanctioned in the operative offices are very tight and need to be relaxed.
The Philatelic Bureau at
the GPO too has been adversely affected. The enclosure
meant for housing the Philatelic Bureau has been
co-allotted to the speed post complaint cell. The stamps
have instead been removed and displayed outside. There is
also a need to place a late fee letter box at
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