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Friday, November 22, 2013

Delivery Pain of Post Offices

Article Published in November, 2013 issue of “Postal Life”,
the monthly journal of AIPEU, Postman & Gr. D ( CHQ ), New Delhi

Written By :Bruhaspati  Samal
Secretary, AIPEU, Gr.-C, Bhubaneswar

Oh ! Thanks a lot.  At last, I could be able to get my Aadhaar Card after a period of 7 months. Greeting the Postman when Mr. Hussain wanted to share his feelings, he became surprised to notice the Postman going out of his premises hurriedly in the bicycle with a disturbed mood.
Hello Dear ! Mr. Hussain called  back the Postman – “Are you in a hurry?”
“Yes Sir.” – replied the Postman.
“I see today you are also late. But why? – Asked Mr. Hussain.                  
With a heavy heart and pensive mood, the Postman replied, “Though our office starts at 9 AM, we started working in the computer 2 hours late today due to load-shading. Since the UPS is not under AMC nobody is attending for repairing in spite of several correspondences and we are working on direct current supply. But unfortunately, being in a sub-urban area, there is frequent power cuts/load shading. To overcome the difficulty though we have been supplied with a kerosene generator, we are unable to collect kerosene since, as you know, the same is distributed under PDS through ration card. It is too difficult on the part of the Postmaster to collect kerosene from the open market and make the generator operational. Actually, it is not understood why my Department considered supply of kerosene generators. On the contrary, today my office has received nearly 6000 accountable and ordinary articles including 3500 Aadhaar Cards and my share comes to nearly 600 letters including 450 Aadhaar Cards which are required to be delivered door to door covering a distance of nearly 15 KMs in my beat today positively. Another painful fact is that I have been recruited as a Postman 15 years back without any basic computer knowledge and now ordered for making data entry of all accountable mails of my beat in the system. Though I have gathered some working knowledge, I have not yet been given proper training for suitable duration enabling me for faster entry. Contradictorily, there is no separate system available for the delivery branch and I have to wait for my turn to come in the single node which has resulted in late feeding of data and thus late beat-out” – the Postman replied.
“But can you deliver all the mails today itself in a fare and square manner ?” - Asked Mr. Hussain.
“I will try my best since there is no other option left for me, Sir” – replied the Postman. “The Department has fixed 2 minutes for delivering an Aadhaar Card booked under Speed Post, 0.72 minute for an unregistered mail, 0.42 minute for delivering an unregistered mail in a multi-storied building, 10 minutes for moving a kilometer on a bicycle and 19 minutes per Km on foot and 20 minutes to give return. Thus excluding my moving time in the beat, lunch hour and return time, I will get hardly 4 hours 30 minutes to work and suspending all other jobs, if I concentrate on delivering the Aadhaar Cards only, it will take at least 3 days to finish which is known to all my bosses. In the circumstances, I don’t know the rush of mails during the next 3/4 days and if this trend continues, perhaps to bring normalcy with complete delivery, I have to take pain for weeks together. And God knows what will be my position with such continuous pain to return back to normal delivery condition.”
“Ya, I do realize. But hasn’t your Department fixed the number of houses to be visited and articles to be delivered in a day ?” – enquired Mr. Hussain
“What shall I tell you, Sir” – the Post man narrated. “The number of articles to be delivered and  houses to be visited during the duty of eight hours has no where been laid down causing extreme  harassment not only to me but to all the delivery staff. At present the door to door beat measurement system adopted by the department is not only unsatisfactory but also incorrect as neither any scientific device like foot meter nor cyclo-meter is used to assess the actual length of beat.  Presently the city is flooded with apartments and multi-storied buildings and the norm for delivering an article in a multi-storied building has been fixed to 0.42 minutes for ordinary mails and 1.80 minutes for accountable mails which is practically impossible. Though the flat owners of a multi-storied buildings are required to install letter boxes in the ground floor which will make easier delivery of ordinary mails and save time, nobody is paying proper attention in spite of several requests.  We have to wait for minutes together before the security guards of an apartment and move on foot from floor to floor which has not been considered to fix the standard delivery norms of articles. Though my leaders are continuously demanding to fix such norms, revise the existing norms to a practicable one and adopt scientific method of measuring the beat length in the interest of delivery efficiency and rationalization of workload of postmen staff as well, nobody is paying proper attention to it. Adding salt to injury, instead of filling in the vacant posts, now a drive is being undertaken by the Department to abolish such posts showing less workload arrived on wrong calculations. ”
Oh God ! You are not bonded labourers of the British era. Why your Department is knowingly trying to avoid human limitations? Is there any plan to be customer friendly grossly ignoring the grass-root reality? – asked Mr. Hussain.
The Postman replied, “ You might be aware that to transform India Post into a vibrant and responsive organization , the Quality Improvement Project called  Project Arrow undertaken in April 2008 through a Pilot in 50 Post Offices of 10 postal circles entailing comprehensive improvement of the Core Operations of Post Offices  as well as the ambience has now spread over 18612 post offices. Among the core activities delivery of all kinds of mails and payment of money orders on the day of receipt are the important components.  For effective and smooth implementation of the concept, a web-based monitoring mechanism (through Data Extraction Tool) has been devised to collect data from the field units directly from the server without any manual intervention. The data analysis is presented to all the Chief Postmasters General of 22 Postal Circles through a video-conference every fortnight (earlier every week). Data on all Key Performance indicators (KPls) is minutely scrutinized and gaps in implementation and remedial measures thereto are discussed in the video-conference. Dedicated Programme Offices have been set up at the Headquarter level and at all 22 Circle Headquarters. Data exchange from Post Offices and all communications with Circle Programme Offices are through e-mail only. Thus, we have been seriously pressurized to effect cent percent delivery of all mails on the day of receipt.”
“Oh! To take the bull by the horns. But since it is quite impossible today on your part, what alternatives do you have today ?” – asked Mr. Hussain.
With much hesitation, the Postman replied, “Sir, the vacant posts are not filled in and in most of the cases the delivery works are being managed through outsiders who don’t know about the area. In case of short term vacancies like leave etc., no clear order to manage the delivery works is seen to be issued by the authorities. Most of the times we are being ordered to work for another staff on meager overtime allowance not revised since years and not paid regularly/timely.  The total responsibility is being shouldered by the poor Postmaster.  The Gramin Dak Sewaks are the most exploited group in this regard without being paid with the Combined Duty Allowance on the plea of some reasons or other. The admissible TRCA  either of the GDS working against the departmental vacancies especially in the vacant post of Postman or his substitute is not being sanctioned in time which is highly discouraging and affecting the efficiency of the delivery staff.  Another important fact to note that most of these Aadhar Cards including corporate mails like Cheque Books under CTS-2010 despatched by banks, premium notices issued by insurance companies and such other mails bear incomplete address in most of the cases and old address in many cases preventing smooth and  correct delivery on the day of receipt. These mails might have been returned on the same day to the sender, but we have been told to keep these articles for seven days under trial which is affecting our tolerance limit (0% to 5 %) fixed now a days. Without giving any written order, we have been suggested to show cent per cent delivery in computer for today’s receipt and clear delivery phase wise as early as possible.”
“But it will certainly confuse a customer to see his letter delivered under trace and track system when it is practically not delivered and kept deposited in the Post Office. Really, it is a  gross irregularity” – Mr. Hussain was surprised.
“That’s happening, Sir”.  – stated the Postman. “In such cases, politely approaching our esteemed customers with every humble submission and explaining our compulsions and limitations also, we are delivering the articles. I’m sorry to say that though most of our customers do realize the problem, many complaints are being registered in the post offices for which the Department is issuing continuous instructions to ensure update delivery information correctly and not to upload any information without actually delivering the letter. Adopting a very cut and dry method, while verbal instructions are issued without any record to save the skin, written orders are issued for initiating disciplinary action. We are just a cat’s paw. I am too late today. Excuse me, Sir. Let me go.”
The Postman left Mr. Hussain’s house leaving him in a thoughtful mood.
Alas! How painful ! All the delivery staffs of the Post Office are in between the devil and the deep sea – groaned Mr. Hussain and asked himself many questions.
-       Why the Department of Posts is not realizing the real delivery pain and not taking all the issues narrated by the Postman seriously for the benefit of both the employees and the customers as well.?
-       Why the delivery norms practically feasible aren't fixed and vacant posts aren't filled in?
-       How can cent percent delivery on the day of receipt be possible without man and machine?
-       Is there no real relief from such continuous pain in delivery?


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