KOCHI: When email nudged snail mail aside, it brought to a halt a means of communication that had a personal touch. The inland letters and the postcards, that used to convey the happiness, despair or sadness of the sender through the words written in his or her hand is a thing of the past. The Postal Department is today trying to remain afloat by expanding into areas like banking. On World Post Day, marked on October 10, postal staff had many sweet and sour memories to share.
"Gone are the days when the postman had to lug around the forms to be signed by the addressee before accepting a registered mail. Today, everything is hi-tech; a digital signature will do," said the postmaster at Kaloor post office. According to him, there has been no decrease in the volume of letters and postcards. "As official documents of government and private establishments are sent via post, we haven't seen a drop in the volume of mail. Besides, we also offer various services like bill payments for BSNL and KSEB," he said.
Things are busy at the post office and according to him, the postal service cannot be dismissed as antiquated. "If you think we have been relegated to the past, think again. We are here to stay and the department is embracing technology to keep up with the times. The postal department has also entered the banking sector. We had the post office deposits, but now, we have turned into a complete banking option," he said.
But despite the optimism, not everything is rosy. The department recently saw a big stir when an action council comprising the National Federation of Postal Employees and the Federation of National Postal Organisations declared a strike till a positive decision was evolved on salary revision for Grameen Dak Sevak (GDS) employees.
"The pay is the major put off. I began service at a salary of `450," asks Raveendran, a GDS employee.
"Today I get `12,000, which is nothing considering inflation and price rise. We have been demanding a revision in the salary structure. What is even worse is that we don't have a pension." He pointed out even a part-time sweeper gets a pension in many departments.
"I have been working as a GDS for the past 38 years and never have I ever found the work easy. Try cycling around, finding the addresses and delivering the letters. The time scheduled for us to deliver the mail is from 10 am to 2 pm. But the entire process is so time-consuming that sometimes the distribution will not be over even till 6 pm," he said. Every day, he delivers around 60 covers, of registered letters, couriers and other items.
Raveendran said since this is considered a government job, a lot of youngsters, who are well qualified, apply. "They think it will be easy to get a department promotion within a few years. But it doesn't happen. Many of them leave after realising the reality," he said.