India Post has played a significant role in the country’s communication and socio-economic development for more than 150 years. During this time, it has touched the lives of almost every Indian citizen through its delivery of mail, financial services and the provision of government social benefit schemes, among a host of other people orientated activities.
With 156,000 Post Offices and 420,000 employees, the country has one of the world’s largest postal networks. The country’s Post Office Savings Bank (POSB) has around 365 Million accounts and deposits amounting to some USD 123 Billion. As the COVID-19 pandemic rapidly fanned out across the world, India Post continued to provide its impressive services.
The first COVID-19 case was detected in India on 30 January. As of the end of September there were around 6 million positive cases reported. To try to halt the spread of the virulent disease, the Indian government introduced a national lockdown. This resulted in the stalling of the movement of people and goods; cargo services were also severely affected.
Faced with the enormous scale of these problems, India Post focused on a number of priorities as it aimed to turn the countrywide challenges into opportunities. Acknowledging that the staff’s safety was paramount, India Post launched Standard Operating Procedures at postal work places offering guidance on social distancing, hand washing, thermal scanning, use of masks, disinfection and sanitisation of premises and equipment.
Postal services were identified as essential services during lock down. To meet demand, the vast network of post offices were galvanised to work in coordination with State Governments and local bodies. Control Rooms at India Post Headquarters and Circle (State) Headquarters were established to manage and respond to immediate needs around the country.
India Post also gave the highest possible priority to medical supplies and the payment of wages under government social security benefit schemes. Flights to evacuate expatriates and cargo flights were used for the transport of essential post. The suspension of railway services, the primary mode of mail transport for India Post, also heavily disrupted postal supply chains. To combat this problem, India Post launched its nation-wide Road Transport Network with 56 long haul national routes and 266 regional routes connecting 75 major cities, and a daily run of over 25,000 kilometres.
Using this method, around 40,000 tonnes of shipments were delivered through this network from 25 March to 31 July 2020. Much needed Covid-19 testing kits were also delivered in special cold storage vans using short turnaround times.
India Post also worked during the lockdown to ensure that the Indian people had access to local financial services. During lockdown more than 175 Million transactions valued at around US$46 billion were made through POSB accounts and around 3.5 million POSB ATM transactions worth US$158 billion took place.
Speaking in the 21 June edition of The Hindu, an English language newspaper in India, Pradipta Kumar Bisoi, secretary, Department of Post, said, “The focus was on the supply chain and the last-mile delivery of essential services as well as the provision of basic postal and financial services.”