Department of Posts must focus more on customer-friendly approaches

The Department of Posts has been offering its service for years in sale of stamps, stationery, remittance of money through postal orders / money orders, savings bank and savings certificate, philately, postal life insurance, senior citizens' savings scheme account, time deposit / recurring deposit account and so on. The Department claims that, amongst others, its chief objectives are to provide efficient, reliable and affordable service with a human touch, demonstrating the highest order of integrity, honesty, transparency and professionalism and discharging responsibilities towards society in an environment of deep trust, mutual respect and a culture of ‘service before self”.

However, the recent experience of a senior citizen makes one question this commitment. Surendar had deposits with the post office in his area, and two savings bank accounts in his and his wife's name. He always made sure that the minimum balance was maintained in both accounts. A year ago, he decided to close his account and gave a letter to this effect. To his surprise, he received a response stating that his account showed a negative balance of Rs. 8450, which he was asked to settle at once. Surendar wrote to the post master seeking an explanation. He was advised to hand over all the passbooks pertaining to that account, and Mr. Surendar did the same. There was no further information about this, and a year later, Surendar has received yet another communication demanding payment.

Apart from this, the elderly man's wife also received a communiqué akin to this, where she was asked to pay a sum of Rs. 10,375 to her savings bank account in order to correct the negative balance. As they had always ensured that the minimum balance was maintained, the couple is piqued by the apathetic attitude of the officials.

Similarly, there was a complaint filed before the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum — II, New Delhi, wherein the complainant had invested his money under the monthly income scheme in four accounts with the GPO, New Delhi. He went for withdrawal of his payments and submitted the duly filled and signed withdrawal slips in the counter ear-marked for senior citizens. The complainant was made to wait for long after which he was asked to affix his signatures once again. Later, the counter clerk advised him to approach the deputy post master for payment who was not present in his seat. When the senior citizen approached the counter clerk once again, he was treated very rudely, asked to sign for the third time and finally payment was refused. Humiliated, the complainant approached the Forum for justice. On hearing both parties, the Forum decided there was deficiency in the services offered by the post office and awarded a compensation of Rs. 30,000 and costs to the complainant.

It is clear that regular orientation programmes for employees in the Department is needed to ensure the dignity of the common man, especially the elderly, is not compromised upon.

(The writer works with CAG, which offers free advice on consumer complaints to its members. For membership details / queries contact 2491 4358 / 2446 0387 or helpdesk@cag.org.in)