By Asif Amin Tibet Baqual

India Post, as its website claims, is the world’s largest postal network touching the lives of every citizen in the country. And in its endeavor to provide numerous services including mail parcel, money transfer, banking, insurance and retail services, it promises to offer its customers value for money while exhorting its employees to serve with utmost integrity, honesty, transparency and professionalism.

Impressive words curated to plaster a façade of corporate colloquialism over a dilapidated structure of colonial conservatism. It’s hard to assess how far the rot has spread across the system but it definitely has its roots deeply entrenched in the archaic statutes of the Indian Constitution, which eats into its core values of being responsive and reliable besides discharging its responsibilities towards the society exhibiting deep trust, mutual respect by creating a culture of service before self.

This highfalutin frippery falls flat on its face when it comes to providing even basic services to its hapless customers without bungling up. Honesty and integrity take a walk in the park when important letters, official documents sent through registered post or under certificate of posting either get lost in the weeds or finally find their way after the cows come home.

Transparency and professionalism goes down the drain when the parcels are either completely siphoned off or their valuable contents replaced with old newspapers, cardboard or just plain rocks. And all this happens right under the very crooked nose of the postal department officials. Instead of hanging their heads in shame, they hide behind the ugly mask of Section 6 of the Indian Post Office Act, 1898, which states and I quote “The government shall not incur any liability by reason of the loss, mis-delivery or delay of, or damage to, any postal article in course of transmission by post, except in so far as such liability may in express terms be undertaken by the Centre as herein after provided; and no officer of the Post Office shall incur any liability by reason of any such loss, mis-delivery, delay or damage, unless he has caused the same fraudulently or by his willful act or default.”

A faint ray of hope appears here for the gullible customer to hack his way into this dense jungle of obscure officialese, jargon, circumlocution, and it dies out soon as it becomes apparent to his utter disbelief and chagrin that the wretched man has already lost his soul to the devil with no hope for deliverance.

The customer needs to prove the loss, mis-delivery, delay or damage to his/her parcel has been caused fraudulently and/or by the willful act of an officer of India Post. And, mind you, this is more difficult than proving that the Aliens exist as the Postal Department refuses to share the findings of their shoddy departmental investigations, which may put their erring officers in the dock. With no concrete proof against it the Postal Department escapes here again. Enquiries are nothing but just a mere eye wash, a very well-concocted crafty plan to conveniently wash their hands off any accountability.

It’s not that the powers that be have not been invoked to ameliorate the economic as well as the psychological damages caused thereof but the final fate of the appeal lies at the altar of the high scepters like the National Consumer Rights Redressal Commission, India’s top consumer court.

India Post should stop peddling its premium products like Speed Post, Business Post, Express Parcel, Media Post, Greetings Post, Logistics Post and other financial and retail services, which fall under commercial postal services, and stick to plain postcard and simple mail. If it aspires to play with the big boys out there then it needs to come out and play by standard rules and not hide behind the archaic Indian Post Office Act of 1898.

It will be nothing short of a miracle if the lazy ‘Babus’ warming up the seats in Sanchar Bhawan get it through their thick skulls that this ancient enactment was constituted to protect the interests of the imperialist British government, and is in total contradiction to India Post’s core values of providing reliable services and being responsible towards its customers’ needs.

What horse sense is it to bring an 118 year old dinosaur of an enactment to life just to protect the unscrupulous elements who bring a bad name to the postal department. We are living in 2016 and there is no room for such anachronistic and obnoxious provisions to exist. In today’s times of fierce competition and better service providers in the market, India Post is putting itself on the road to perdition by failing to deliver even the most basic of services. A message in a bottle thrown into the sea has got better chances of reaching its destination on time than a speed post article sent through India Post. Hope this message gets delivered in no uncertain terms this time. One can only hope.

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