Postmen from all over Goa collect an average of six to seven thousand letters per day, from 423 letter boxes. This is a huge drop after the advent of the internet.
But postal services in India have silently moved forward with “traditional services now being accessed from the comfort of homes,” discloses Mariamma Thomas, the new postmaster general of the Goa region.
Since the start of the email, going to the post office to buy a postcard (which now costs 50 paise) or an inland letter (now costing Rs 2.50) seemed to be a thing of the past. But, the ground reality is different with post offices still open and services keeping pace with time.
“The change in technology has seen a change in the use of the services and services offered by the post office. People are not sending letters through the post now, but a lot of services have been revamped and new ones introduced since the start of the internet era,” discloses Mariamma, who became part of the Indian Postal Service in the year 1994.
With the change in service, the Head Post office in Goa, which was situated near the Patto Bridge, was later shifted to Tapal Bhavan in Patto in 2019. And though the view from the new place is not scenic, the professionalism of the past still floats in the new premises.
Mariamma Thomas, postmaster general, Goa region
“With technology, one does not need to come to the post office today for services offered in the past. Most services can be done online, and it is only for services like Aadhaar or handing over of parcels that one needs to visit a post office,” says Mariamma, who believes that the post office is one of the few government departments that offer service at the doorstep of citizens.
“The postman is today a mobile ATM. Old people can call their post office stating that they need to withdraw cash from the bank, and a postman will arrive and give them the cash from whichever bank one has an existing account in,” explains Mariamma.
The post office, unlike other departments, has its reach in every part of the country where people reside.
According to the postmaster general of Goa, that is why despite the introduction of the internet, post offices are still being opened in different parts of the country.
The post office in Panjim offers 150 services, and one of the services is sending parcels abroad. Previously, it was a time-consuming process, but “now with the internet, we have a customs office seating in our Panjim office, and clearing all goods to be sent abroad. The emphasis is on services,” claims Mariamma.
“Previously, money orders would take days. Today, money is sent within hours,” she adds while trying to pen the new connection between the postman and people.
From e-posts, parcel and passport services to Aadhaar-related work, post offices today offer.
“The post office at the collectors building in South Goa now processes passports. We have staff specifically trained for the job,” claims Mariamma who believes the post office is an institution that will always grow as time proceeds.
The push in infrastructure has reached the post office and has led to a change in mindset with individuals now able to design their own stamp – either with their face or any other design, at a cost.
“A sheath of twelve stamps costs Rs 400. I agree, that at one stage, no one could dream of having a stamp of his type, but this concept took off in the USA and is followed successfully the world over,” says Mariamma while admitting that managing a family and her job can be demanding.
Hailing from Kerala, this has been her seventh posting, and like many officers here on transfer, Mariamma has already been captivated by Goa.
“The heritage of this place charms me. In earlier days, postal systems were the privilege of the kings, but in Goa, I was happy to see the system started by the Portuguese for all. I saw the history in the museum in Old Goa,” reveals Mariamma.
Mariamma admits that post offices in Goa are short-staffed and that many at work suffer from attitude problems. Yet, she believes correction is possible if money is spent on human resource management.
“Don’t aspire for something which you haven’t earned,” thinks Goa’s new postmaster general, offering wisdom accrued from her upbringing. Meanwhile, the postman in Goa will keep bringing home messages of good tidings.