April 07, 2017



Written By Admin on Apr 7, 2017 | April 07, 2017

Its probably the biggest postal service in the world - its probably the slowest postal service in the world and its certainly the most antiquated in the world.

But now the Indian mail service is cautiously entering the twentieth century.

The last days of the Raj, have lingered too long, and now its time to turn the 150,000 post offices in the sub continent into an update, computerised network.

But in some areas it seems the new mantra of speed and satellites is going to take a long time to catch on.

It's one of the legacies of the British Raj in India - and one that's been preserved well in terms of its bureaucratic spirit.

This is how the typical Indian postmen have looked for decades.

Armed with antiquated bicycles, these men are the backbone of a mail network that covers more than 150-thousand post offices.

It is the largest state-owned postal system in the world - with a reputation of being one of the slowest and most unreliable.

After all, the speed of mail delivery can only be as fast as the person peddling.

For its ill-equipped human carriers , the job of delivering the mail to far-flung locations is a tough one - and many are beginning to complain.

But change is in the air...

The telecom revolution is beginning to modernise the out-dated postal delivery system.

Computers are becoming more visible in urban centres and satellites have made instant message transmission a reality.

To complete the new-age look, major post offices in the cities have opened post shops and telecom centres for the convenience of customers.

Even the image of the Indian postmen is being remodeled, with fancy mopeds replacing the age-old bicycles in many places.

The rides are smoother, the delivery faster.

The new slogans are speed and efficiency - but shaking a bureaucratic giant out of its long slumber is far from easy.

Delays and missing mail continue to plague the system, and the queues for postal services are not getting any shorter.

Lack of funds to finance the modernisation drive is not the only problem.

The sheer size of the postal operation makes access to change quite difficult.

The technology is still spread so thin, that it's left a vast segment of the postal network totally untouched.

Away from the world of computers and satellites, there's the reality of a mailing system operating in West Bengal state, primitive even by Indian standards.

On foot, Charana Singh Sardar is the local mailman.

SOUNDBITE: (Bengali)
" We have to pass through dense forests. And there are wild elephants, bears and tigers - we feel very scared."

Charana is assisted by his family .
Often his mother carries the mail bags for half a distance that on some days can stretch more than ten kilometres.

Employed by the postal department on a casual basis, Charana earns a little more than one-thousand rupees a month (equivalent to about U-S 30 dollars).

With widespread unemployment in the area, Charana's family is reconciled to travelling dangerous mail routes to make a living.

In ancient times, people used trained birds to carry messages.

In this part of Purulia, poverty has forced humans to take over the job.

It seems for much of the rural population, mail will continue to come on two running feet, well into the 21st century.
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