“Chitthi ko taar samajhna aur jaldi aana..” went many a dialogue in Hindi films. But in its last lap, the ‘super fast’ telegram failed to deliver even by the standards of the humble postcard.
The 163-year-old telegram service, which had to be closed due to lack of enough takers, got such a tremendous response in its last couple of weeks that the telegram’s last hurrah has become a headache for telegraph officials. Flooded with thousands of ‘last’ telegrams, the officials are now over head and ears trying to deliver them.
The Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (BSNL)-run telegraph services used to receive between 1,500 to 2,000 bookings for telegrams in a day across the country before the decision to wind up the services was taken. As the news broke, it started getting thousands of ‘souvenir’ telegrams every day. The last day of the service, July 14, recorded 20,000 bookings across the country.
With just 998 employees, including messengers, across the country, the telegraph service just doesn’t have enough people to deliver all the telegrams in time. “With very few telegrams being sent, there has been no recruitment for decades. Existing outdoor messengers were assigned to other duties,” said a telegraph official, who didn’t wish to be identified.
“I wanted to send a telegram on the last day of the service and intended to keep it as a memorabilia. I sent it from the telegraph office in Janpath to my daughter at my Lajpat Nagar residence. But it’s been almost a week and we are yet to receive it. Every day we wait for the messenger to ring our doorbell,” said Manohar Sharma.
Sanjay Sinha, joint general manager (public relations), BSNL, said: “We are delivering telegrams on a war footing. The telegraph staff will not be diverted to other duties till every telegram is delivered.”
“We never got so many telegrams earlier, and now suddenly so many have been booked. The staff shortage has caused us to take some time in delivering them,” he added.