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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Transforming India Post in to a Citizen-Centric Organization

Published in September, 2014 issue of Bhartiya Post, the monthly journal of AIPEU, Group-C, CHQ, New Delhi
Bruhaspati Samal
Divisional Secretary
AIPEU, Gr.-C, Bhubaneswar Division 

With the aims at creating a conducive and friendly work environment both for the staff and the customers visiting the Post Offices and to upgrade and enhance the quality of service in ‘core areas’ e.g. Mail delivery, Remittances both electronic and manual and Postal Savings schemes, India Post conceived the Project Arrow in April, 2008 under ‘Look & Feel Good’ concept providing all IT enabled services through secure connectivity improving the service quality levels in such core business areas. And further, to face the twin challenges of increasing competition and continuing advances in communication technology and to provide the best-in-class customer services, India Post has undertaken an end to end IT Modernization Project in the year 2012 to equip itself with requisite modern tools and technologies. With key objective to modernize and computerize all Post Offices in the country including Branch Post Offices in rural areas, the Project aims at transforming the DoP into a “Technology Enabled, Self-Reliant Market Leader”.  Due to the sincere and devoted team efforts of its employees, particularly those working at the grass root level, India Post could be able to implement all such projects successfully to rise to the expectations of its customers and stakeholders which resulted to win the Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence in Public Administration for the year 2008-09 for its outstanding initiative “Project Arrow – Transforming India Post”. It has also won Silver Medal for outstanding performance in Citizen Centric Service Delivery under Mail Network Optimization Project in the 16th National Conference on eGovernance held in New Delhi from 11th to 12th February, 2013. And now we have started performing better for which the Postal Services have beaten the revenue targets three years in a row. "The revenue generation of Postal Services is increasing every year and the targets for each coming year are raised by the Government," Minister of Communications and IT Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha on 7th July, 2014. The government had set a revenue target of Rs 7,522.02 crore for the Postal Services in 2011-12, while the Department registered revenue of Rs 7,899.40 crore. In the year 2012-13, the revenue stood at Rs 9,366.50 crore against a target of Rs 8,762.75 crore and in 2013-14, the revenue stood at Rs 10,720.94 crore as against the target of Rs 9,787.52 crore.

But this is not sufficient. We want to be the best becoming more citizen-centric and that’s the decision of the Hon’ble prime Minister of India. For the purpose, the Secretary (Posts), vide her D O letter No. Secy. ( P ) / 06 / 2014, dated 5th June, 2014 has already instructed for strict implementation of Hon’ble Prime Minister of India’s decision to transform India Post into a citizen-centric organization  with clear focus on effective delivery of services with minimum inconvenience to the citizens. It has been instructed to avoid unnecessary paper works and take up telephone / eMail mode to speed-up the decision making process, to improve the working environment by weeding out the unserviceable furniture, equipment and old records etc. and removing unnecessary signages, garbage condemned items etc with clean and lean approach so that the office shall look like a business house and lastly to focus on productivity and effectiveness reducing inconvenience to the customers.

            Generally speaking, a citizen-centric organization delivers cost-effective, personalised and relevant e-services for which a simple focus on the organisation is not at all sufficient – it is the way in which the organisation mediates a critical relationship between government and citizen that matters. It is not enough just to implement organisational change. Change in itself will not guarantee delivering services that deliver public value. We have to work on processes that improve the trust of citizens in the Department. To make real progress on transforming our services, we should aim to positively transform the relationship between the Department and citizens since efficiency is mediated via citizen use and public value into effectiveness. Efficiency is the operation of the governance process in a way that continues to demonstrate cost benefits; more for the same, the same for less. Effectiveness comes from the use of efficient processes to construct service portfolios that deliver individual and public value. Managing the transformation of efficiency into effectiveness involves flexible organisational behaviour and relationship management with citizens which just needs a change in our mind-set.

Thus, implementation of the above instructions of the Directorate to transform India Post into a citizen centric organization just needs a change in our attitude at all levels and nothing more. It is now noticed that most records having prescribed preservation period of 18 months only are heaped in a corner of the Post Office for more than 18 years even not only giving a very odd look of the interior view but making the accommodation cramped. We people who are working with much difficulty do not show any interest in weeding out such records. We often say, Cleanliness is next to Godliness. Thus, truly speaking, this work actually needs no instruction. It is a part of our daily routine work. Every record has its own preservation period and every item has its own life to be condemned.

Directorate is so serious on the issue that all Circle Heads have already been reminded vide Directorate’s DO No.4/M(HRD)/2014-PO, dated 9th July, 2014 to have a weekly monitoring ensuring all the Post Offices across the country cleaned up to be spotless, presentable and welcoming. In the meantime, the drive is being monitored by the Directorate through video conference and several teams are moving throughout the nation for physical verification. The Directorate vide its D O letter No.4/M(HRD)/2014-PO, dated 21st  July, 2014 has already instructed that the responsibility of maintaining the Post Office clean and presentable should be with the head of the office and the same should be reflected in the memo of Distribution of Work of each Post Office. As directed, the Circle heads shall arrange to institute an award every month for one Post Office in each Division which keeps the Post Office very clean, tidy and presentable. 

Counter View : 

Out of 154882 post offices in toto as on 31.03.2014 (139182 post offices in rural areas and 15700 post offices in urban areas), only 4163 (2.68%) post offices are functioning in Department’s own building and rest 97.32% are in rented buildings. Most of the Branch Post Offices functioning in the rent free accommodations provided by the Gramin Dak Sevaks are completely unsuitable and similarly the basic civil and electrical works undertaken by the Department in many rented buildings owned by private owners for computerization have been witnessed to be of sub-standard nature. Thus cleanliness in such buildings is quite dependent both on the cooperation of the private owners and the Department.

But contradictorily, there is no budgetary provision to undertake this cleanliness drive. Only Weeding out of old records and unserviceable furniture cannot make the post office welcoming and presentable while the post offices are functioning in cramped accommodations with disfigured racks / almirahs of different colours and such other sub-standard furniture. But, as experienced, the speed shown in weeding out records and selling unserviceable furniture by the Department during the drive is not being reflected anywhere at least for minimum white-washing / repairing of the P O buildings, repairing of slightly-damaged furniture, supply of standard furniture, repainting of disfigured racks/almirahs etc.  For example, Bhubaneswar Division has earned Rs.2,66,309/- by 31.07.2014 from the above sale. Had the authorities been instructed to spend some amount for the purpose, most of the post offices would have been more presentable and welcoming. Since, it is a continuous process, the authorities should consider to make budgetary provision for the post offices where required.

In view of computerization of Post Office Savings Bank, the Department while modified the procedural rules of Savings Bank vide S B Order No. 17/2009 ( Directorate’s letter No. 76-01/09-SB, dated 08.12.2009 ) circulating revised rules of POSB Manual, Vol. I, has clearly instructed that maintenance of some limited number of records viz. For HOs - Stock Register (Rule–5), Long Book (Rule–10), Ledger Card (Rule-13), Ledger Binder (Rule–16), Duplicate Card (Rule–17) , Register of Index to Ledger Cards (Rule-18), Ledger Chart (Rule-18) & Nomination Register ( Rule-18) and for SOs with SB-LAN – Long Book (Rule-10) & Nomination Register (Rule-22) only  are not required since already maintained in the System Software. Nowhere, it has been instructed yet to discontinue other records for which the grass root level staff members, simultaneously with computerized works perform the manual works in accordance with the rules and procedures of Postal Manuals including POSB Manuals in the fear of disciplinary action since the Postal Manuals have not yet been amended deleting the traditional clauses not required after computerization. In case of any deviation, the so called disciplinary authorities will go as per the rules for taking disciplinary action. But as experienced, on the plea of cleanliness drive the SPMs/Postmasters are compelled to throw away the ledgers and such other records not yet ordered to be discontinued. This should be avoided at any cost.

It may also be suggested that repairable items should be excluded from such sale. It is witnessed that while the SPMs/Postmasters have no standard furniture in their offices, such items with minor damages are being sold for negligible returns. Recently furniture worth crores of rupees were supplied to RMS offices under MNOP which compelled the authorities to drive away the usable furniture even. Delivery staff in post offices are still sitting on broken plastic chairs and using damaged sorting tables. A drive can also be taken for repairing such slightly damaged furniture centrally and supply to needy offices. Consequent upon supply of new computers, the surplus computers may be upgraded instead of sale and supplied to the needy single/double-handed delivery post offices having only one computer in the delivery branch against 10 to 12 beats.   

Further, the look and feel good concept now needs to go beyond Project Arrow and the concerned authorities should be broad-minded in this regard allowing the grass root level employees, especially the SPMs / Postmasters that much of freedom with requisite administrative and financial approval to take an instant decision for the betterment of their offices. Continuous correspondences and reminders need to be avoided. It is often witnessed that hard copies are still asked even after receipt of eMail which needs to be taken care of and the telephonic request of the SPMs/Postmasters should be honoured instantly. Charity begins at home. The order issuing authorities are to set the example first resulting the tendency to flow downward automatically. A good employer-employee relationship can only help to accelerate a good department-citizens relationship.

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