Smartly dressed staff working on flat screen computers, people sitting comfortably in shiny steel chairs and visitors surfing information kiosks. This is the head post office in Jamshedpur. It’s not an aberration, this is how 5,000 post offices across the country will welcome consumers, come July.
The makeover is thanks to the Project Arrow (PA) scheme of the Ministry of Communications and IT. Already 500 have received a facelift .
“Now, you will want to go to a post office,” said Jyotiraditya Scindia, the Communications and IT Minister, who ideated the project. “The effort is to make post offices conducive and attractive with modern facilities like Internet kiosks. The project paves a new approach towards postal services.”
And the new approach includes adding technology-driven services such as instant money orders, ensuring mail and money orders are delivered on the same day and aiming to ensure that no service takes more than five minutes. All this is tracked real-time at the offices of the postmaster general, chief postmaster general and the minister in New Delhi.
But this is just the beginning. The larger plan is to make post offices in every nook and corner of the country multi-purpose centres, and retailing could be the next step. They may well become a rural miniature version of urban malls.
“We have a very vast distribution network but as of now, it does not generate that interest from the industry. Project Arrow would provide cutting edge delivery technology and would lead to more partnerships with the private sector. We want to transform the post office to windows to the world,” said Scindia.
In Madhya Pradesh, for example, some post offices have a tie-up with commodity exchanges like MCX to display prices of agricultural products.
The project even received mention in the interim budget on Monday. “This project will receive full government support as it will enhance the services offered to the masses and would also lay the foundation for a vibrant delivery mechanism for many social sector schemes such as pension and the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme,” said acting Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.
(With inputs from Surya Agarwal, B. Vijay Murty and Priya Ranjan Sahu)