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Himashree Deka and Pampi Rajbongshi
Date of Publish: 2017-07-06

12300 Letter Boxes in Assam continue to bask in the glory of the world's largest postal network

 

In early 1990s when Keshav Das used to open the cylindrical red-coloured letter box at Dorakohora in Assam’s Kamrup district most of the letters he cleared were personal handwritten letters. He still clears the letter box and collects a good number of letters even now. However, these are mostly official letters, usually typed.

“People now use emails, sms, video calls, chat across digital platforms to connect to their friends and relatives instantly. They can do it easily with their mobile phones and therefore they do not need to wait for days and weeks to get their personal handwritten letters delivered to intended recipients and wait for days to receive the replies, he says.

However, official letters still need to be delivered as hard copies of official letters are needed for records in most offices so some official letters are dropped in the letter boxes to be delivered through postal mail service even after sending the soft copies through emails.

Earlier, the pressure of local mails was so much that to speed up the process of sorting and delivery the Department of Post added a green coloured letter box for local letters. “There are a few number of green letter boxes are left now. As people have stopped sending personal letters by post the green-coloured letter boxes are very rarely used. Now, most people do not know the use of green-coloured letter box,” says Pabitra Das, a postal assistant at Meghadoot Bhawan in Guwahati.

Even if somebody wants to send his or her handwritten letter it need not be dropped in the letter boxes and the person can come straight to the nearby e-post office to get the letter scanned and mailed to the e-post office of the destination instantly. A print out of the scanned image of the letter is taken out, put in an envelope and then delivered at the addresses.

As on March 31, 2014, there were 18,352 letter boxes under 4012 post offices in Assam, of which 16,892 were located in rural areas and 1,406 were located in urban areas. The number of letter boxes in the state declined to 12,300 as on March 31, 2016, of which 11,197 are located in rural areas and 1,103 are located in urban areas.

With 1,54,910 Post Offices spread across the country the Department of Posts in India is the largest postal network in the world. Of these 1,38,955 are located in rural areas and 15,955 are located in urban areas. The first post office in India was set up in Kolkata in 1727 and at the time of independence there 23444 post offices in the country.

 

Annual Report 2016-17 of the Department of Posts states that 1044 new letter boxes were installed in rural areas in Assam in 2015-16.

Only letters, postcards, inland letter cards and packets may be posted in the letter boxes in the post offices / mail offices, installed in public places and Machine franked articles are not be posted in these letter boxes.

 

In Guwahati there are 20 letter boxes under Guwahati General Post Office attached to the headquarters of the Assam Postal Circle at Meghdoot Bhawan. Of these three boxes are within its campus. Altogether 8,072 letters were received at Guwahati GPO on 5th June 2017 which gives an indication of the postal route still used by people in the capital city for the delivery of their mails.

The Department of Post is expecting the post offices across the country to be bustling with activities of posting letters during the run up to the Independence Day this year. It is conducting a National Letter Writing Contest under the “Dhai Akhar/Letter Writing Campaign.” The contest is open to all and includes all age groups. The theme of the letter writing campaign will be “Dear Bapu (Mahatma Gandhi), you inspire me” and the letter to be written in English/Hindi/Local Language to Bapu or Mahatma Gandhi and may be addressed to the Chief Postmaster General of the respective circles. The writer of the letter will have to go to the post office and post the letter in a specially designated letter box by August 15.

Perhaps, for those, fatigued by overuse of the touch screens or the keyboards of their laptops and desktops the campaign might inspire them to take a break to pick up a pen and a paper and write a personal letter to their loved ones requesting a reply via post.

 

Himashree Deka and Pampi Rajbongshi

( Himashree Deka and Pampi Rajbongshi are students of M. A. (Second Semester) at the Department of Communication and Journalism, Gauhati University. This feature has been produced as part of their internship at NEZINE)

 

 

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