Monday 19 August 2019

The Life Story of a Postal Assistant - Expression of some embarrassing facts while in between the devil and deep sea

 = Bruhaspati Samal = 
Circle Secretary, AIPEU, Group-C & Leader, RJCM (Staff Side), Odisha

I am a Postal Assistant. My qualification was initially Matriculation. I was selected to join just on the marks obtained by me in the Annual HSC Examination. Neither any written examination nor any interview was held. Many poor meritorious brothers and sisters also joined with me. My job was totally non-technical. At the time of joining I was physically fit, mentally sound and had clean track records in Police files. I joined in the Department of Posts with a pride as a Central Govt. Employee and initially trained in Postal Training Centre to learn the operational requisites where I was taught “Customer is never wrong. We exist because there are customers.”

With higher degrees from Colleges / Universities, when I was running from pillar to post in search of a job to feed my family, to treat my parents, to educate my brothers and sisters, to live with a status and dignity in the society, Department of Posts sheltered me. I was assured and committed to work heart and soul. I started working in Post Office counters as a Postal Assistant. I learnt a lot on Mail, Savings Bank and Insurance businesses already in operation and on premium products and services introduced by the Department one by one. My effort in effecting prompt service delivery to the customers was recognized both by the members of public and Department as well. I became financially sound and socially adorable to discharge my duties towards my family, society and nation. I could be able to look after my parents, educate my brothers and sisters, get my own family and married my brothers and sisters also. This could be possible because of Department of Posts. I became more committed.

With passage of time I got an opportunity to be selected as Development Officer (Postal Life Insurance). After joining, I experienced that I was an officer without my own office. I had to move every month from the Circle Headquarters to the area assigned to me and to procure PLI business for the Department for which I was getting commission in addition to my monthly salary. It made me financially more healthy and strong. In addition, I also got an opportunity to gain ample marketing knowledge. But unfortunately, after a definite period, I was forced to work as a Postal Assistant which deprived to exploit my marketing experience for the benefit of the Department. However, subsequently, though I got a chance once again to work as Business Executive, I was not really enjoining any executive power to take any instant decision for procuring business. Similar to the fate of DO (PLI), I was again relieved from the post of BE after a definite period to work as a Postal Assistant knotting all my field experiences to my personal credit only. In addition, I also got a chance to work as Public Relation Inspector. I served both the public and Govt. without being an Inspector in real sense since one day I had to return to the four walls of the Post Office.

The existing policies of the Department adopted in a very cut and dry method neither made me a full-time Officer nor a full-time Executive nor a full-time PRI (P). While some were/are treated to be tenure posts, some were/are not in the sanctioned establishment. The vast marketing and field experiences gained through the above jobs were seen to be meaningless for the Department.  I got lit bit disappointed.

Few days later, I was transferred and posted as OA, Divisional Office for which there was / is no recruitment rules. Many Postal Assistants like me from the post offices are transferred to Divisional Office at the sweet will of the Divisional Head to work there without any particular training to handle the administrative work as was / is done in respect of PA, CO. I took the assistance of my seniors already working there, turned the pages and learnt the works.  While I gained expertise in administrative work in my four years tenure, I was again transferred as PA to a town Post Office. My administrative experience became meaningless also.

Subsequently, I passed the PO & RMS Accountant Examination and worked as Accountant in the Department with a Special Pay for the purpose which was to be added to my basic pay after three years. But when the Special Pay was termed as Special Allowance, by 5th CPC, I was deprived of getting the fixation benefit due to several confusions and queries from top to bottom.

I got my TBOP after rendering 16 years of service which was equivalent to LSG at the time of introduction. I have seen employees serving 5 years in TBOP have appeared the PS Group- ‘B’ examination, got qualified, rendered full service and retired. But, I was not allowed to appear the above examination with a clarificatory order after 22 years of its introduction that TBOP was a just financial upgradation and not a promotion. I was surprised with the dual interpretation of the same ruling.

Time continued. The Department of Posts faced several challenges of increasing competition in all the three core sectors of Mail, Savings Bank and Insurance by private courier companies, private/public sector banks and several insurance companies.  On the other, there was continuing advances in communication technology, especially in mobile telephony and the Internet seriously affecting all the three sectors. Thus to provide the best-in-class customer services, India Post undertook an end to end IT Modernization Project to equip itself with requisite modern tools and technologies. With key objective to modernize and computerize all Post Offices in the country including Branch Post Offices in rural areas, I T Modernization Project, 2012 aimed at transforming the DoP into a “Technology Enabled, Self-Reliant Market Leader”. 

For successful implement of the Project, the Department selected many Postal Assistants as System Administrators in the same pay and allowances from the existing establishment without any new creation and fortunately, I was also nominated as such among others. With 2/3 weeks training, I had to do my best both for hardware and software issues and I did it starting from Sanchya Post  / Meghdoot Millenium to FSI / CSI. I spent many sleepless nights for data entry, data migration, error rectification etc in connection with CBS Finacle and PLI McCamish. I did not care for my health, my comfort and my family. I forgot everything. I ran from post office to post office. Without rest and time limit, I tried my best to remain present anywhere anytime for troubleshooting. My only aim was for a smooth and correct migration of data so that my co-workers and public may not suffer and the image of the Department may not be tarnished in any manner. When my service as a System Administrator was / is barely necessary, the Govt. refused to accept the System Administrator as a Special Cadre.  I did apprehend my future as a System Administrator.

I witnessed that in the name of exquisite nomenclatures only viz. Officer, Executive, Inspector and Administrator etc., I was exploited. With introduction and abolition of Fast Track Scheme, introduction and abolition / merger of Postmaster Cadre, frequent changes in the recruitment rules, wrong interpretation of the existing rules, introduction of examination for cadre based promotion  etc. my cadre was put to several experiments by the Department.

Years Passed on. Due to old age problems my parents stayed with me for periodical treatments. My only son and daughter started going to colleges for higher education. One day, I was transferred and posted as a Sub-Postmaster in a single-handed Delivery Post Office functioning in a Type-III quarters including attached quarters for the Postmaster. Apart from below schedule of accommodation, the house was completely in an uninhabitable condition.  After joining there, when I saw the condition, I appraised the authorities either for shifting to a suitable accommodation or for dequarterization with required civil and electrical repairing.  On my repeated requests, the Department wrote to the house owner for repairing. The file with several queries moved from Divisional Office to Circle Office / house-owner and vice-versa without any result throughout my tenure without any result. Unnecessary queries were made on the plea of security aspect pushing me to heavy financial sufferings for no fault of mine. My HRA was stopped which was more than the rent paid by the Department to the house owner. Nobody tried to understand my condition. Being confused to maintain my family in a single room with my old age parents, my wife and two grown up son and daughter, I preferred a private rented house. I burnt my fingers with double financial punishments.

I repeatedly tried for standard furniture for the post office with replacement of the broken / obsolete furniture. I became breathless in the cramped accommodation and unhealthy workplace. The Post Office was reflecting a poor picture with lack of basic amenities like drinking water, lavatory etc. I was not in a position even to offer a chair to the senior citizens. I was forced to maintain a very low profile. My appeals and petitions brought no result from the administration.

I was unscientifically given two passwords for Operator and Supervisor to perform all the functions of a Post Office.  Most illogically, I supervised myself. I was the Maker and I was the Checker. Due to failure of the SAs to attend timely my office for immediate technical trouble shooting related to connectivity, other software/hardware issues on one hand and non-availability of standby accessories like mouse, key-board, etc. while I failed to serve the customers as per provided norms in the citizen-charter, I was threatened to be charge-sheeted time and again if fail to achieve the unachievable targets for POSB, PLI / RPLI and other business products. I was compelled for effecting cent percent delivery in the absence of adequate delivery staff and support system. Frequent system problems, sluggish connectivity etc. were not given timely attention for which I had to work beyond normal office hours regularly. My Sundays/Holidays were snatched away in the name of training/workshop/mela with threatening of disciplinary action.  In comparison to authoritarian pressure to work, work and work, motivational counseling was seen negligible.

I became the victim of both the public and the administration remaining in between the devil and the deep sea. My life became a hell. I reminded the initial stage of my service life. I asked several questions to myself regarding my commitment, sincerity and devotion.

In the meantime, though I got three financial up-gradations, MACP-I, MACP-II and MACP-III and now in the pay level of Rs.4600/-,  still I am a Postal Assistant after rendering more than 30 years of service without any change in my nomenclature. While with similar pay level @ Rs.4600/-, employees in the other Central Govt. establishments and even in the State Governments are enjoying Gazetted Status, my status remained the same. I am still an official (not an officer) having no administrative and financial power to manage my own office affairs.  Without prior approval of my authority, I could not be able to purchase an LED bulb, a mouse, a key-board, a ribbon cartridge, a packet of paper, a liter of diesel, a bucket, a broom, a bottle of phenyl / gum, a floor cleaning brush, a register, a lock etc which were barely required on day to day basis for smooth functioning of the post office and to maintain the cleanliness. While the functional activities of the Department were / are drastically changing inviting innumerable new problems to the employees especially on IT modernization Project and Core Banking Solutions, the grass root level employee like me who is directly responsible for earning revenue for the department is exploited to the maximum extent as bonded labourers.

I was surprised when some of colleagues were deprived of getting their financial upgradations since their APAR was not ‘Very Good’ which was / is mostly dependent on the mood of the authority. Some were even deprived of getting the same since they refused their regular promotion. Three MACPs are to be conferred to an employee who will not get any kind of promotion during his / her entire service career. There was no need to combine it with regular promotion. The intention of the Govt. for such restrictions to debar and to demotivate the employees remained far from my understanding.

Both the financial suffering and mental tension affected my health condition seriously. When I applied for leave to check up my health condition, no leave was granted in time and when granted, no one came to relieve me. Day by day, my health condition deteriorated. Now I started suffering from high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetics. In addition, I also suffered from Computer Vision Syndrome due to continuous sitting before the computer in sub-standard chair and table. My doctor advised me that it might lead to heart disease and stroke. Gradually, I was going out of the frying pan in to the fire. Being undone since committed, I continued to work on the bed of arrows analyzing the commitment I had made during the initial stage of my joining in the Department which was seen to be lost somewhere in the mist of time. Born initially as a Postal Assistant, now I feel at the fag end of my service career that I may be finished finally as a Postal Assistant also.

May I hope that a time will come when everything will take a new turn?

Before, I conclude, I should say, the basis of any policy of sustainability and growth, especially of labour intensive activities, is the productivity, capacity and morale of its personnel. That’s why, it is widely accepted that workers build nation. The Workers’ contribution in nation building is incomparable.  Harassment to the workers, avoidance to their interests and any kind of suppression to their rights anywhere in any manner always bring revolutions damaging the growth and prosperity of the nations. A committed workforce is barely necessary for the welfare of any organization or the nation as a whole.

Sincere appeal to the policy makers to realize the fact, find out the lapses and go for suitable changes for the welfare of the employees, the Department and the nation as well.

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