CUTTACK: At least 22 post offices in Orissa have been closed during the past two years and another 50 are on the verge of winding up due to acute staff crunch. Not long ago, in February 2007 a middle-aged post peon hanged himself inside a local post office for he was allegedly unable to cope with the workload and pressure from his bosses.

According to sources at least 5000 posts in various rank and files of the department are lying vacant in about 9000 post offices in the State as they are not filled after its occupants retired or died in recent days. More than 60 per cent of the post offices and other offices of the department are functioning from poorly maintained rental accommodations while over 16,000 postal sevaks here are working without proper service rule governing them, sources added.

Various employees’ federations have been demanding commissions to go into the revision of pay and pension of the staff. “But instead of fulfilling their demands, attempts are now being made to privatize the postal services under the plea that the department is making loss,” said a trade union leader here threatening that the employees would soon go on a strike.

He pointed out that the department was now maintaining over 18 crore saving accounts across the country dealing with over Rs 400,000-crore transactions. The department provides service to about 80 lakh policy-holders in PLI and RPLI category.

“Rather the Union Finance Department takes the entire profit made by the postal department as because the postal accounts are only operated by the Union Finance Ministry,” the leader alleged.