‘There is a plan to add banking facilities in post offices at a cost of Rs. 19,000 crores'
Faced with the challenge posed by the Information Technology revolution, the Ministry of Communications plans to have integrated postal services in two years.
Speaking to The Hindu, Union Minister of State for Communications Sachin Pilot said a good amount of work had been done in this direction but it would take his department two years to complete the task and “keep our thread with the people alive.”
Mr. Pilot disagreed with the view that with the internet revolution spreading, the postal services were losing clientele. “We have not closed a single post office and their relevance is not lost. But we have to integrate that with other services like banking, insurance and other day-to-day needs of the people,” he said. India today had 1,55,000 post offices with 5,80,000 employees.
Mr. Pilot said IT had progressed very well with 2.6 million getting jobs in the sector. He said his department had moved a proposal to add banking facilities in post offices at a cost of about Rs. 19,000 crores. “This would prove a turnaround in reviving the post offices and making them viable delivering centres,” he said adding that computerisation and internet connectivity of all the post offices was another remarkable initiative in the offing.
The Minister said the Speed Post Service had grown popular. “There is 20 to 30 per cent growth in this service every year,” he added.
Floating post office
Mr. Pilot, who was on a three-day visit to Kashmir, inaugurated a computer programme in Kashmiri language at the DOAEEC Centre. Similar programmes will be launched in Dogri and Gojri languages. He also inaugurated a floating post office in the Dal Lake. This project is being revived after many years. “Similar post offices will be revived in Pahalgam and Gulmarg,” he said.
Mr. Pilot said he had ordered that 300 digital satellite phones be made available in border areas where the people did not have access to mobile phones. Only the BSNL was offering telephone facility in remote areas. “In Kargil, we are the only service provider,” he said adding, “our objective is not to earn profit but to give facilities to people.”
With 1,700 post offices in Jammu and Kashmir, the Ministry was in the process of computerising all the post offices and work was going on in full gear. “Geographically, we are the largest stake holder in the State and we will not fail the people,” he said.
On lifting the ban on pre-paid SMS, Mr. Pilot said it was the subject of law enforcement agencies. “We are working with the MHA on this and trying to find a solution, which also should not jeopardise the security of the State. But I am hopeful of a solution,” he said.