India : e-post to be launched in six states

by Krittivas Mukherjee, India Abroad News Service

Kolkata, Jan 23 - The next time the postman rings the doorbell, don't be surprised if you are simply handed a piece of paper with a few words on it rather than a postcard, envelope or aerogramme. And mind you, the sender would spend nothing. It's the person the mail is addressed to who would have to shell out money to receive the message.

This is how things will be when the Indian government goes hi-tech with its postal system. To start with, the e-post scheme would be introduced in the six states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Kerala, Maharashtra and West Bengal.

e-post, as the electronic postal service to be introduced at select post offices has been christened, will entail downloading messages from the Internet, printing them and delivering them at the doorstep of the addressee.

The facility would be available in three categories. The delivery of ordinary e-mail would cost Rs. 10 per message, premium mail would cost Rs. 15 per message and extraordinary mail, delivered by special messengers, would cost Rs. 20 per message. It was not yet clear what happens to a message whose addressee refuses to either receive it or pay for it.

Union Minister of State for Communication Tapan Sikdar told reporters that the scheme would be test-run in the six states since they have the largest number of people staying abroad. The scheme would be introduced in about 200 post offices in the six states. Efforts are on to provide Internet connections to these post offices.

"With private players cashing in through various speed post schemes, we cannot afford to lag behind. The objective of e-post is to offer an efficient and prompt communication facility," Sikdar said, adding that the need for such a service has been felt for long and the demand is "rapidly growing".

But some quarters of the postal department are of the view that the scheme would not be cost-effective and lead to increased paperwork and a whole lot of complications for the department.An undeterred Sikdar, however, brushed aside such skeptics and said e-post would be popularized through a sustained advertising campaign.

--India Abroad News Service