If Maxi’s recent experience was so positive that she could not resist the temptation to write about it, mine was so awful that I can’t resist the temptation to write about it too.
On Thursday, my friend Abbas requested that I accompany him to the Post Office to find out why his Monthly Instalment Scheme payment of interest on a deposit of a fairly large sum had not been credited to his bank account as it had been for the past three years. I tried to assure him that it will be credited in a few days, as perhaps the department was just overwhelmed with year end matters and the issuing of interest instructions were delayed. (Financial year for us is April to March.) Abbas being Abbas, a fellow who will worry himself to death over trivial matters, insisted that we should just go and check.
So, I picked him up under the impression that we were going to our local Post Office which is just a ten minute drive away, but he dropped a bomb saying that we had to go to the General Post Office, which is the Pune City Head office of all the local Post Offices. I cheerfully agreed to chauffeur him to the GPO despite it being peak hour traffic and I was very pleased with myself that I lost my temper only once during that marathon drive.
On reaching the GPO we found that a lot of improvements have been made and the compound wall around the large area has protected the building and it looked like a modern office building. We were directed to the main hall of the office and we found that there were three long queues at different counters and were informed that we had to first join one queue to get passbook number changed and to collect further information. This is the first time that Abbas came to know that his passbook number is of no use anymore and that it had to be changed and it was just fluke that we had gone to the GPO. Apparently the Postal Department has now been given a banking licence and hence all its account numbers had to be changed to fit in with the account numbering system that commercial banks follow. So Abbas joined the queue and got his number changed but the lady at the counter could not give any further information about the automatic transfer of payments to bank accounts and directed him to join another queue. Here are the three queues that we saw there.
You can see Abbas just below the Postal Department Logo of tick on the first photograph. He is the bald man with the beard.
Abbas joined the queue in the bottom photograph and I wandered off to see if I can use my charm on the Post Master to find out just what was going on. I was directed to three different people before I was able to meet one person who advised me that henceforth no bank transfers will be made and that all depositors will have to come personally every month to collect the interest in cash. Her advise was to eschew the first ten days and to come after that to avoid the beginning of the month crowds. I went out and informed Abbas about this and he decided to go and find out himself that my information was correct. He did that and came back to tell me that he received the advise that for someone of his age, it would be advisable to close the account, take the money and deposit it in a commercial bank as this will enable him to avoid the physical presence of collecting the monthly payment.
You will see from the queues that most of these people are senior citizens who have put their savings in the Post Office for safety, still suffering from the hangovers of our experiment with socialism. On enquiry, I was told by a few that every month they have to come to collect their interest payments in person and this queuing is quite normal at the beginning of every month.
This experience raises the question about the concern that the babus in the department of posts show to their clients, for that is what all these simple people are who have deposited their life’s savings with them. No consideration at all for the inconvenience being caused by long procedures to withdraw the money, unilateral changes to routine without advising the depositors about them, sudden stoppage of payments etc and to do all this to senior citizens is outrageous.
Abbas has collected a closure of account form to be submitted and we shall go there again on the 15th to close his account and deposit the proceeds straight away into his account with a commercial bank.
I must however compliment the local management of the GPO for making the premises look totally unlike a government department and for the staff who were courteous and helpful despite the number of people asking the same questions.