Latest Posts


Thursday, March 21, 2013

You've got mail... on foot power!

PURULIA: When was the last time you got mail? No, not the one your boss sent you five minutes ago that you checked on your smartphone, but mail of the paper variety, written with pen and paper - snail mail, in other words. In case you had forgotten, paper mail still exists and there are people who deliver them... on foot!

It's hard to believe in the age of Facebook and Gmail, but a dozen men still perform a job dating back to the days of the Raj. Anath Singh Sardar, Kalipada Mura, Bhondu Gope, Bibhuti Bhushan Pramanik, Dusshasan Machowar, Santa Mahato, Suranjan Kalindi, Rajen Gorai, Mathur Chandra Gorai, Prasanta Sahish, Mongol Chandra Mandi and Dijen Sahis are runners, who deliver letters and parcels on the trot.

They are an anachronism in this e-age but provide a crucial service in an area where cellphone signals are feeble and the Internet is unheard of. Come rain or cyclone or a cruel sun, these men deliver mail for the Baghmundi post office and 11 sub post offices under it in the Ayodhya Hills, about 50km from Purulia town.

Each sub post office has an average jurisdiction of 10 to 15 villages in the remotest corner of the Ayodhya Hills, which was, till recently, a hotbed of Maoist activities.

A typical working day for each of these 12 runners starts before the sun begins to shine. They take the letters in a bag on their shoulders and, armed with a lathi, deliver them to the recipients in the course of the day.

And if most postmen have only pet dogs to worry about, spare a thought for the runners, who have to take anything from bears to Maoists in their stride. "There are wild animals like python, cobra, hyena, wolf, wild dogs, wild boars , elephants and bears in the forest. Sometimes, we have also come across heavily armed Maoists. These days, we don't carry spears like our predecessors did, but still managed to deliver every single letter," said Anath Singh Sardar.

Anath became a runner after his father, Dhananjoy Sardar, died a few years ago.

The tremendous hardship of their job is obvious, and since the runners are not full-time postal employees, all they want is a little understanding and better working conditions. Kalipada Mura of Baghmundi said that they are paid about Rs 7,000 per month. "We don't get any retirement benefits as we are casual staff. The department should make all of us staffers as we are doing this crucial job where even mobile signals are not available," he said. "What will happen to our family if something happens to us while on duty," he wondered. The runners have also demanded bicycles to make their job a little easier.

Bibekananda Mahato, the head of Ayodhya sub post office, agrees in principle to their demands.

"Yes these 12 runners are assets to the postal department. They travel alone to remote places like Silinga, the Turga falls, Saharjuri, Usuldoomri and Bondhghotu during extreme summer, winter and monsoon and never say no," he said.

Bidhan Acahrya, the superintendent of Purulia head post office, said he would forward the runners' demands to higher-ups.
Source : The Times of India, 21 march, 2013

No comments:

Post a Comment