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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.
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.
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.
HORSE POWER Mail tonga service in Nainital, 1917