They give a decent burial to all the 'dead' letters - undelivered, unclaimed.
They are the officers of the Dead Letter Office, often called "morgue of the mails".
Every postal circle in the country has one Dead Letter Office, the nomenclature of which has been changed from the morose sounding Dead Letter Office to Returned Letter Office (RLO).
Hundreds of letters and parcels both registered and unregistered, which cannot be delivered to the addressee or sender land at the RLO.
Speaking to Hindustan Times, the in charge of the RLO Delhi Circle at Jhandewalan, Triveni Ram said, "Many people do not write the correct name and address. Some times we get item with just the name of the person like 'Ramdev, New Delhi' almost an impossibility to trace."
"The post offices do try to deliver the letters to the addressee but if the name or address is undecipherable or wrong or incomplete, if the addressee has changed his address with no forwarding address, or if the letter / parcel is refused to be accepted by the party concerned normally we try to send it back to the sender. But many times the name and address of the sender is not given. In that case the letter or parcel is sent to us."
Here RLO officers act as detectives trying to trace from any available clue as to the correct name and address of the addressee or sender.
Triveni Ram said, "Our task is basically to find out the addressee and deliver the item. We are authorized to open the letters and parcels which we do and sometimes the address of the sender is written inside in which case the items is sent back to the sender. Sometimes the sender refuses to take it back and it lands back with us."
"We also try all possible means to decipher the address and trace the addressee to deliver the items. Sometimes trying to find out just by name and telephoning persons of that name. We try to get any alternative address, if the person or firm has shifted."
But for large number of postal articles it is difficult to trace the owner and they remain unclaimed.
"Number of foreigners visiting the country, leave by air and send parcels by sea, sometimes giving as sender's address the address of the hotel in Paharganj in which they stayed. In case they are not there to receive the item in their home country (sometimes they do not wish to do it because of the high customs and other duties) it remains undelivered and comes back to the sender. As they are the sender and have checked out of the hotel, the item lands with the RLO"he added.
The RLO keeps all the postal articles, which are delivered there from different post offices for a year.
"Earlier after a year we used to burn all the letters and auction the articles found inside the parcels. But today we are shredding all the letters before disposing those and auctioning all the goods recovered from the parcels through approved auctioneers after taking permission from postal authorities. The sale proceeds from the auction are deposited in the unclassified receipts of the Department. Sometimes we get cash,cheques and drafts which are all deposited with the department."
The Jhandewalan RLO earns revenue of around Rs.2 to Rs.3 lakh annually from auction of these articles, he said.
In September, 2009, the RLO here received 16,600 unregistered letters, 1986 registered letters and 36 parcels, he added.