Postmaster in Odisha sacked for not delivering more than 6,000 letters in over a decade
An officiating postmaster in a village of the Bhadrak district of Odisha was suspended Tuesday after villagers complained that thousands of mails, some dating back to 2004, were lying in the post office undelivered, an official said.
Postal delivery agent (postman) Jagannath Puhan, who was officiated as branch postmaster for more than a decade in the Odhanga branch post office of Bhadrak district, was suspended after preliminary inquiry found him “guilty of negligence and dereliction of duty”, the official added.
The undelivered mails were spotted by a few schoolchildren in an abandoned school building of Odhanga village from where the post office operated before it was shifted a few days ago.
As angry villagers milled around the soggy, torn and termite-infested letters looking for their mails, the postal department was quick to take action against Puhan.
“I have suspended him after it was found that he (Puhan) had committed gross dereliction of duty as well as breach of trust. Further disciplinary action, including dismissal, would be taken after inquiry,” said Sarbeswar Mishra, superintendent of Bhadrak postal circle.
A villager said, among the letters, he found old admit cards for examinations conducted by the Staff Selection Commission and the Union Public Service Commission several years ago.
Officials said they were still counting the number of letters Puhan had not delivered for over a decade. “We have managed to salvage over 1,500 letters in two days. But more than half of 6,000 letters that Puhan did not deliver have either turned soggy or eaten by termites and cannot be delivered at all,” said Mishra.
Much of the undelivered letters were from the Life Insurance Corporation, several private and state-owned insurance firms, mails to the members of Parliament, postcards and other official mails, he added.
Officials investigating the case said Puhan, who had joined as a delivery agent in the branch post office in 1979, was entrusted with the additional charge of branch postmaster in February 2004 when the postmaster retired. With postal department freezing appointments, Puhan continued to hold both posts till March 2014, delivering the letters on his bicycle to villages in a 3-km radius of the post office till a new postmaster joined. After this post-master left, Puhan again doubled up as the postmaster between July 2016 and July 2017, till a regular postmaster was appointed.
A senior postal official said Puhan chose what to deliver and junk smartly. “While he delivered the registered letters, money orders, speed posts and Aadhaar cards, for which record has to be maintained, he seems to have chucked ordinary letters as no such records are maintained...,” he said .
“Since there were no official complaints..., we had no way of knowing what was going on.”
Puhan has admitted to throwing several letters in an abandoned room in the school building. “For several years I could not walk properly and was not in a condition to deliver these letters,” he said.