Out of 2,000 agents, only 500 continue to serve depositors in the city
Over the past two years, the number of postal savings agents has reduced drastically in the city.
Unable to cope with the heavy cut in commissions and mounting daily expenses, many of the 42,000 postal savings agents have either diversified to other careers or remain inactive.
In Chennai, of the 2,000 agents, only 500 continue to serve depositors. These agents are involved in popularising postal saving schemes and act as a link between investors and the postal department.
For nearly two years now, the State government has suspended its share of incentives to postal agents after the Central government proposed to stop commissions. This has discouraged many agents from approaching new customers.
On September 17, postal agents in Chennai plan to go on a protest demanding they be provided the old incentive rates before the implementation of the committee’s recommendations.
S. Rajpandian, vice-president of Tamil Nadu Postal Agents Welfare Association, said a majority of agents are women and the commission is a huge part of their income.
After implementation of the Shyamala Gopinath committee’s recommendations to slash postal agents’ commission, it has become difficult for them to make ends meet, he says.
Members of the Association say the State government has written to the Centre to clarify about its share of incentives to agents. But, the Centre is yet to respond to the communication.
Though interest rates for saving schemes were revised recently to between 8.4 per cent and 9.2 per cent, the higher rates have not gained much patronage. This is because many customers depend on agents for service and agents cannot afford to popularise the schemes with the commission provided, members say.
Geetha Damodaran, the Association treasurer, says an agent who used to deal with 1,500 customers a month until a year ago now caters to just 500. A majority of them are old clients. The monthly earnings too have dwindled to Rs. 10,000.
“We cannot levy a service charge from customers we have known for several years,” she says.