A network of 1.56 lakh post offices ensures that essential services reach doorsteps of beneficiaries
While crores of Indians stayed indoors after the lockdown to contain the COVID-19 pandemic came into force, around four lakh postal department employees across the country worked day in and out to keep essential services running.
These unsung heroes risked their lives not only to deliver parcels and letters but also cash to pensioners, elderly citizens who could not visit the banks to withdraw money, and direct benefit transfer (DBT) beneficiaries. As regular flights and passenger trains remained suspended, they deployed special measures like using the postal mail motor service to ferry letters, parcels, answer sheets, mangoes, medicines, personal protective equipment (PPE) suits, COVID-19 test kits, and ventilators.
As per data procured from the Department of Post, India Post as of Thursday had conducted 8.8 crore post office savings bank (POSB) transactions worth ₹1.53 lakh crore and 3.8 crore India Post Payments Bank (IPPB) transactions worth ₹9,166 crore, of which 1.17 crore were Aadhaar-enabled Payment System (AePS) transactions worth ₹2,196 crore.
During the lockdown, India Post made 1.5 crore DBT payments worth ₹1,210 crore through POSB and more than 51 lakh DBT payments worth ₹610 crore. Over 80.1 lakh money orders worth ₹857 crore and more than two crore mails and articles weighing 5,000 tonnes were delivered.
India Post, during the nationwide lockdown, leveraged its vast network of over 1.56 lakh post offices to provide essential services to people at their doorsteps even in the remotest corners of the country.
“The focus was on the supply chain and the last-mile delivery of essential services as well as the provision of basic postal and financial services,” Pradipta Kumar Bisoi, secretary, Department of Post, told The Hindu.
India Post used cargo flights, Lifeline Udan flights, and its own fleet of mail motor vans to deliver essential items, including medicines, COVID-19 testing kits, and medical equipment.
Since there was no private courier services during this period, a lot of citizens ordered life-saving medicines and postal employees delivered these with care.
The department also made special intra-State and interstate mail arrangements like hiring transport vehicles. In the absence of rail and air services, the department started a road network with its existing fleet, which was primarily used for intra-city delivery.
Special road network
It also developed a national road transport network with 22 long routes of over 500 km, interspersed with 34 inter-State and intra-State schedules, touching over 75 cities. Mr. Bisoi said, “This initiative was taken to ensure that there was a movement of essential items within the country so that the Department of Post could be able to deliver parcels containing such items.”
Through the national road transport network, the department could deliver more than 2,000 tonnes of life-saving medicines and medical equipment, including COVID-19 testing kits, PPE kits, masks, sanitisers, and test samples, in tie-ups with the Indian Drug Manufacturers Association, Directorate General of Health Services, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), and online pharma companies. ICMR had tasked India Post to deliver testing kits from depots to 200 labs.
During these trying times, the department helped disburse pension payments and the social benefits of the government at the doorsteps of citizens.
The AePS could facilitate withdrawal of cash from any scheduled bank through the IPPB. “More than two lakh postal personnel and gramin dak sevaks could deliver cash up to ₹10,000 to citizens at their doorsteps,” he said.
In Telangana, Asara Pension Payments worth ₹1,293 crore were made to around 56 lakh benificiaries. In Karnataka, around 70 lakh divyangjan, elderly and widowed beneficiaries received pensions through money orders worth around ₹600 crore at their homes during the lockdown period, officials said.
Similarly, in Gujarat, it delivered ₹159 crore to four lakh beneficiaries of Ganga Swaroop Yojana (widow financial assistance).
The department allowed the public to withdraw cash from its ATMs. Around 17.7 lakh transactions worth ₹585 crore took place through its ATMs during the period. It also pressed mobile post offices into operation in the country.
Proving to be the saviour to farmers, the department despatched fruits, in partnership with various State horticulture departments. In Bihar, 6,280 kg of Shahi litchis were delivered to customers, while 92,382 kg of mangoes were delivered in Bengaluru. In Maharashtra, the India Post Kisan Rath Service helped farmers from Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg deliver 105 tonnes of Alphonso mangoes in Mumbai and Nashik, when the regular transportation network was unavailable. It also provided logistic support to district administrations and NGOs to deliver food items and rations to migrant labourers and the needy.
Besides, postal employees distributed more than six lakh food packets and dry rations through voluntary contributions and in partnership with various NGOs and gurudwaras. The employees have also contributed ₹42 crore to PM CARES Fund.
“Call them unsung heroes or by any other superlatives, the fact is, it is the working class — the invisible masses — doing their job without pomp and show, amidst danger, that sparks the hope that humanity is not dead,” said Powai resident Prakriti Sharan, a research scholar at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.
Now that the lockdown is being lifted gradually and customs flocking to post offices, the focus would be shifting to personal safety and hygiene.
Courtesy : https://www.thehindu.com