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Coronavirus | Despite odds, India Post ensures essential services during lockdown

Unsung heroes fanned across the country to deliver answer sheets, cash, commodities, fruits, medicines etc. risking their personal safety

Since March 25, 2020 when crores of Indians have been staying indoors due to lockdown, around 4 lakh postal department employees on the ground worked day in and out to deliver parcels, letters and even cash thus maintaining the essential service when regular flights and passenger train services remained suspended.

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Having risked their lives, these unsung heroes fanned across the country to deliver cash to pensioners, old people who could not travel to bank branches to withdraw money and Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) beneficiaries.

Taking it as a service to the nation they deployed special measures like expanding the postal mail motor service to ferry letters, parcels, answersheets, mangoes, medicines, PPE & COVID test kits and ventilators.

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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, 3.8 crore India Post Payments Bank (IPPB) transactions worth ₹9,166 crore out of which 1.17 crore were Aadhar-enabled payment transactions worth ₹2,196 crore.

It 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 2 crore mail/articles weighing 5,000 tonnes were delivered.

The India Post leveraged its vast network of over 1,56,000 post offices to provide essential services to citizens at their doorsteps even in the remotest corners.

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“The focus was on the supply chain, the last-mile delivery of essential services and the provision of basic postal and financial services,” Pradipta Kumar Bisoi, Secretary, Department of Posts told The Hindu.

Leveraging on its well established supply chain and logistics infrastructure, it 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 including ventilators.

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Since private courier services vanished during this period, a lot of citizens ordered lifesaving medicines and postmen delivered these with care.

The Department made special intra-State and inter-State mail arrangements including hiring transport vehicles to keep the services running.

Since the rail and air service were disrupted, the department started a road network with its existing fleet which was primarily used for intra-city delivery.

It also developed a National Road Transport Network with 22 long routes of over 500 km interspersed with 34 inter-State/intra-State schedules touching over 75 cities.

“This initiative was taken to ensure that there is a movement of essential items so that the Department of Posts could deliver parcels carrying essential items anywhere,” Mr. Bisoi said.

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, sanitizers and test samples in tie-ups with Indian Drug Manufacturers Association, Directorate General of Health Services, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and online pharma companies.

The ICMR had tasked it to deliver testing kits from depots to 200 labs located even in remote areas.

It even ensured timely delivery of medicines at the doorsteps of hospitals and individuals.

During this trying time, the department helped in the disbursement of pension payments and the social benefits of the government at the doorsteps of the citizens.

The Aadhar-enabled Payment System (AePS) could facilitate withdrawal of cash from any scheduled bank through the India Post Payment Bank.

“More than 2,00,000 postmen and Gramin Dak Sevaks could deliver cash up to ₹10,000 to citizens at their doorsteps,” Mr. Bisoi said.

In Telengana, Asara Pension Payments worth ₹1,293 crore were made to around 56 lakh benificiaries. In Karnataka, around 70 lakh divyangjan, old age and widow beneficiaries received pension payments through money orders worth around ₹600 crore at their doorsteps, officials said.

In Gujarat it delivered ₹159 crore to 4 lakh beneficiaries of the Ganga Swaroop Yojana (Widow Financial Assistance) at their homes.

The department allowed general public to withdraw cash from its ATMs. Around 17.7 lakh transactions worth ₹585 crore have taken place through them.

It pressed into operation Mobile Post Offices in various parts of the country to provide basic postal and financial services.

Proving to be saviour to farmers, the Postal department despatched fruits in partnership with various State Horticulture departments.

In Bihar, 6,280 kg Shahi Litchis were delivered at the doorsteps of customers and 92,382 kg mangoes were delivered in Bengaluru.

In Maharashtra, the India Post Kisan Rath Service helped farmers from Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg deliver 105 tonnes Alphonso mangoes to Mumbai and Nashik when 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 employee distributed more than 6 lakh food packets/dry rations through voluntary contributions and in partnership with various NGOs and gurudwaras.

They have also contributed Rs. 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 — working without pomp and show, amidst danger lurking in corners, sparks the hope that humanism is not dead,” said Powai resident, Prakriti Sharan, a Research Scholar, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) University of London.

Now that the —lockdown is being lifted gradually and customs flicking to the post offices in hoards, the focus would be shifting to personal safety and hygiene.

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Printable version | Jul 10, 2020 11:25:12 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/coronavirus-despite-odds-india-post-ensures-essential-services-during-lockdown/article31824172.ece

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