In his 30 years of service, Rajbir Singh has never seen these kind of work days. When most of his kin are staying indoors, he goes out to deliver the post as always, just as he did in pre-Covid times. A postman at the Connaught Place post office, one of the busiest in the national capital, Singh says he has never felt so important in his entire career. “We are delivering medical kits, important posts, ensuring doorstep delivery of pensions and other social benefits,” Rajbir trails off.
At home, his two daughters, Priyanka is with the Delhi Police and Monika is a nurse at Medanta Hospital in Gurugram, keep reminding him about social distancing and hygiene, which is apart from “the training at the postal department”, he says. With the lockdown on, the department is working with a 50 per cent work force, all employees nearing retirement or with a medical history are exempt. “We double up for them as well,” Rajbir says. “It’s a rare chance to serve our country and we must do our best”. Which is sage advice that he gives his girls as well.
Banking on dedicated staffers like Rajbir, India Post is using its robust network, 156,000 post offices, of which 141,000 are in rural areas, to become virtual lifesavers, delivering coronavirus testing kits, ventilators, masks and medicines to far-flung corners of the country.
The post offices are open for regular mail service too, but special services are the priority in the lockdown. “We tell customers that our regular services could face some delays,” says Santosh Kumar, who is posted at the Railway Mail Seva in Lucknow.
During the lockdown, more than 200 tonnes of medicines, testing kits and ventilators have been delivered by the postal department to hospitals all over the country. The department still has 200,000 postmen and gramin dak sevaks on the ground to ensure that the flow of communication and payments to beneficiaries of various government schemes (Aadhaar-based payments through India Post Payment Bank) remain seamless.
In pre-Covid days, the postal department had often been criticised for their inefficient practices, and it has rapidly lost market share to private courier and logistics companies. But in the country’s hour of crisis, India Post has stood out.