With the entire nation under a lockdown, few are leading the fight against the COVID-19 from forefront. Along with the entire team of health system including doctors, nurses, technicians and other staffs; government officials; defence and police personnel; sanitisation workers, anganwadi-ASHA workers; bank employees; fire and safety workers; workers from telecom sector; essential goods dealers and shopkeepers; postal workers, too, have been tirelessly working to keep the wheel moving.
India Post, from delivering lifesaving and critical medicines and COVID-19 test kits to food and cash, is helping to ensure the delivery of essential items amid this lockdown. It is important to note that this public sector postal giant is serving the people when no other service providers are allowed. Private sector platforms including Amazon and Flipkart have suspended their operations as of now.
Around 4 lakh postal workers across the country are part of this response against COVID-19. India Post is the largest post-office network in the world, which, with more than 1.56 lakh branches, is providing the services on a priority basis during this lockdown period.
“The delivery of medicines and medical equipment including COVID-19 testing kits is being given priority,” Pradipta Kumar Bisoi, Secretary, India Post, told the Hindu Business Line. “We have made special mail arrangements to ensure timely delivery. Medicines are also being delivered through cold-chain. In fact, deliveries are being done even at night and on holidays,” he added.
Barring the geographical constraints, medicines and equipment have been delivered to places such as Una in Himachal Pradesh and the North-Eastern Hill University in Meghalaya. Ventilators have been taken from Puducherry to Odisha and Gujarat, cold-chain movement is effected from Delhi to Lucknow, Bisoi said.
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“We are also trying to enable cash withdrawals, opening of accounts, direct benefit transfer and pension payments at the doorsteps of the customers through the Aadhaar-enabled Payment System (AePS), particularly to aged, disabled and disadvantaged beneficiaries,” he added.
The services are being dispatched in various air cargo flights. This air cargo flights operate to the nearest metro or big towns and from there, department’s own vans and hired vehicles are being used.
According to a report, more than 100 tonnes of medicines and medical equipment are being delivered in tie-ups with the Indian Drug Manufacturers Association, Directorate General of Health Services and online pharmaceutical companies.
India Post has also been working as an alternative banking system. It is still considered as the default bank by many and has more than 300 million accounts are there with this government entity. During the lockdown period, around 200,000 cash deliveries are being made a day to people’s doorsteps which is almost 10 times higher than the number before the lockdown.
“When lockdown was announced, my biggest anxiety was I wouldn’t be able to withdraw the pension. But it took just one phone call to the postmaster for my pension to get delivered to my home,” Tabassum Hashmi, 76, who lives off the pension from her husband who died two years ago, was quoted by the Wall Street Journal as saying.
“Post offices are doing a great job, especially during these difficult times.”
According to a report by the Hindu Business Line, around 1.7 crore Post Office Savings Bank transactions were carried out involving more than ₹23,000 crore, apart from 78 lakh India Post Payments Banks transactions involving around ₹2,000 crore amid the lockdown. Also, AePS transactions worth more than ₹260 crore served around 13 lakh customers at their doorsteps.
In certain areas, workers are staying at home in the absence of public transportation. But, it does not prevent the workers from their critical task.
Latest in the development, India Post has entered into a tie-up with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for delivery of its COVID-19 testing kits from 16 regional depots to 200 additional labs designated for COVID-19 testing across the country. Nodal officers have been identified from both the agencies -- Department of Post and ICMR for each regional depot to ensure smooth operations.
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Once the kits are received at these 16 depots (located in 14 postal circles/states), they have to be distributed to different labs in the same or neighbouring states.
India Post has delivered consignments in Kolkata, Ranchi, Patna, Jodhpur, Ajmer, Jaipur, Imphal and Aizawl, amongst others. These kits are being delivered packed in dry ice, said a statement released by India Post.
"Indian Council of Medical Research has set a target of carrying out around 1 lakh tests across the country per day. For this crucial work, India Post with its vast network of 1,56,000 post offices has once again turned into a COVID warrior," the statement added.
"In fact, rising to the call of duty, deliveries are being made even at 11:30 PM. India Post is committed to ensure that the delivery of kits is made as per requirements even in far flung areas like Zoram Medical College, Meghalaya," the statement added.
Employees of India post are even engaging in relief operations. In Guntur division, National Federation of Postal Employees (NFPE), a prominent union of the India Post, has distributed relief kits to nearly 150 members of contingent employees including sanitation workers, watchmen, scavengers of post offices.
Ravi Kumar, who is working with India post for 20 years, said: “Someone has to come out and help and make the system work. It feels like the old times again back when people used to look up to us.”
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