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Friday, November 18, 2016

Post Offices rising up to the challenge

The once ubiquitous Post Office, which has been fast receding in public mindspace in recent years, was pitchforked onto the centre on November 8, when the Prime Minister announced measures to demonetise.

Along with the expanding banking sector with its lakhs of branches and ATMs, the Post Offices, which number around 1.2 lakh in the country, with another 30,000 branch offices, were also asked to meet the gigantic challenge of exchange of ₹500 and ₹1,000 notes.

A week later, a visit to a few Post Offices bore typical scenes of long queues and cash exhaustion within a few hours of opening, in addition to shortage of staff. However, in Telangana, with a network of 4,961 post offices, an average transaction of ₹80 crore in currency exchange has been taking place, according to official sources.

According to Ravinder, an agent vending postal services and products, there has been tremendous pressure on the branches to exchange currency. The bigger offices are exchanging around ₹60-80 lakh per day.

“In the face of limited amount of cash, we are using our vehicles to get the money and doing the exchange for a few hours and deploying additional staff by drawing on retired employees as well,” said the Director (Postal Services) V Upender of the Office of the Post Master General, Hyderabad.

The Postal Department is using its MIS system to track the all India transactions through control rooms set up across the country on a daily basis. In Hyderabad alone, seven Head POs and 200 branch POs are involved in the operations since November 9.

However, the role of the POs is limited for such a large scale operation as most of them do not have ‘safe room’ to secure the currency and are also not well-equipped. They have also not been given the wherewithal to handle currency exchange. This problem is stark in rural areas where the Postal Department has a good network, says B Yerram Raju a veteran banker.
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