THE PI­O­NEERS

India Today - - INSIDE - —Sh­weta Punj

IN­DIA POST, DMRC, AGNI MIS­SILE DEPART­MENT, MARUTI, BARC, HERO CY­CLES, BHARTI AIR­TEL, MMTC, GO­DREJ, IN­DIAN OIL, ONGC, TATA STEEL, HAL, BSE, ISRO

In­dia Post touches the lives of bil­lions of In­di­ans in the coun­try and across the world. It’s the most widely dis­trib­uted postal sys­tem world­wide. As of March 2015, In­dia Post had 154,939 post of­fices, of which al­most 90 per cent were in the ru­ral ar­eas. The neigh­bour­hood post of­fice also serves as a bank and, now, as a digital ken­dra for mil­lions in ru­ral In­dia.

THE DREAM

By 1861, two years af­ter the Bri­tish started gov­ern­ing In­dia, 889 post of­fices had come up, han­dling nearly 43 mil­lion let­ters and over 4.5 mil­lion news­pa­pers an­nu­ally. The first su­per­in­ten­dent of the post of­fice was ap­pointed in 1870. In 1876, Bri­tish In­dia be­came the first non-found­ing mem­ber of the Gen­eral Postal Union. The world’s first of­fi­cial air­mail flight took place in In­dia on Fe­bru­ary 18, 1911. It was an 18 km jour­ney last­ing 27 min­utes. A French pi­lot car­ried about 15 kg of mail (ap­prox­i­mately 6,000 let­ters and cards), which in­cluded a let­ter to King Ge­orge V of the United Kingdom. Be­sides con­nect­ing In­dia much be­fore tele­phones and other forms of com­mu­ni­ca­tion were in­vented, the postal depart­ment pro­vides sav­ings and de­posits ac­count ser­vices to over 150 mil­lion peo­ple, play­ing a lead­ing role in their fi­nan­cial

in­clu­sion. For the poor, post of­fices serve as an easy ac­cess point to fi­nan­cial ser­vices.

Long be­fore digital money trans­fers, In­dia Post had been ef­fec­tively pro­vid­ing the money or­der ser­vice for over 150 years. From a com­pletely man­ual op­er­a­tion, the depart­ment has up­graded to digital money or­ders. The Post Of­fice Sav­ings Bank had a cus­tomer base of 330.3 mil­lion as on March 31, 2015. Its vast net­work has been used to dis­burse pay­ments un­der MGNREGA (Ma­hatma Gandhi Na­tional Ru­ral Em­ploy­ment Guar­an­tee Act). The postal depart­ment has rolled out the Cen­tral Bank­ing So­lu­tion in 9,583 post of­fices. ATMs have been set up at 125 lo­ca­tions and debit cards is­sued to Post Of­fice Sav­ings Bank cus­tomers.

LOOK­ING AHEAD

The postal depart­ment is fo­cused on rid­ing the ecom­merce boom across the coun­try—from cre­at­ing ded­i­cated cor­ri­dors for delivery to train­ing post­men to han­dle big vol­umes. There is a con­certed ef­fort to be­come more con­nected dig­i­tally. The depart­ment has am­bi­tions of set­ting up a full-fledged bank. While its first ap­pli­ca­tion has been rejected, it can ap­ply for a li­cence again.

THE PRINT COL­LEC­TOR/ GETTY IMAGES

HORSE POWER Mail tonga ser­vice in Naini­tal, 1917

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