TAMIL NADU

Post offices for rolls revision under consideratrion

CHENNAI DEC. 25. The Election Commission has held a preliminary discussion with postal authorities on use of post offices for poll rolls revision.

"For the time being, I would just say we are working on it," S.C.Dutta, Postal Secretary told The Hindu on today. He hinted that certain changes in laws were needed to enable the department in this regard.

Pointing to a finding by a survey, conducted by a private advertising company a few years ago, that all segments regarded post offices as a friendly outlet for public services, Mr. Dutta said this was the opinion held by policy-makers at the highest level too. The department's scheme of `e-billing', offering post offices as a one-stop shop for the common man to pay their utility bills, received encouraging response in some States. In Chennai, it was accepting bills of subscribers of a private mobile phone company.

On the Speed Post Passport Service, Mr. Dutta said it was a success despite some State Governments opening parallel outlets for selling and accepting application forms. One feedback was that envelopes, given by the department while selling the application forms, came in handy for applicants who had enclosed a number of documents.

"At present, the service is available in 128 speed post centres all over the country."

`Need to streamline subsidy'

The Centre asked the department to balance its budget within five years and that it would not be able to continue granting an annual subsidy of Rs. 1,300 crores for long.

"So, the benefits of the department's subsidy have to become more focussed on the intended beneficiaries and there is need to streamline it."

Citing an instance, he wondered whether the department should continue to subsidise the cost of transmission of high-cost periodicals. Though the department had a policy for over two decades that post offices in urban centres should be self-sufficient, an assessment showed that 80 per cent of 485 offices in Delhi were running at a loss.

On the reconstruction of the GPO building, one of the heritage structures of Chennai, which was devastated in an October 2000 fire, U. Srinivasaraghavan, Chief Postmaster-General of Tamil Nadu Circle, who was present, said the Chennai Metropolitan Development Agency had cleared the department's application for plan permit of the renovated building and forwarded it to the State Government for approval.