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When technology threatens to stamp out post card, inland letter

G Naga Sridhar Hyderabad | Updated on December 18, 2019 Published on December 18, 2019

Though meant for the common man, many uncommon personalities, like Mahatma Gandhi, have used it extensively   -  The Hindu

“I was distributing over 300 letters every day in the early 1990s out of which nearly 200 would be post-cards. But, now, I rarely find them except for a few acknowledgements,’’ says Gouse Muhammad, who has been distributing letters for 30 years now in the old City of Hyderbad.

Technology is putting a full-stop to this humblest form of communication, introduced in 1879 at a quarter anna (6 paise made one anna)

Though meant for the common man, many uncommon personalities, like Mahatma Gandhi, have used it extensively.

Though the use of the post-card has been rapidly falling, the Department of Post has not stopped it. This despite the rising cost of printing and distribution. According to latest data, the average cost of a post-card (from printing to distribution) in 2017-18 was ₹12.98 while the revenue (the price of a card) is 50 paise. The cost has risen from ₹12.15 in 2016-17 and ₹9.94 in 2015-16.

The story of the inland letter is no different. Its cost, too, rose to ₹12.70 in 2017-18 from ₹12.07 in 2016-17 and ₹9.68 in 2015-16 against its price of ₹2.50 now.

Volumes remain low

The mail volumes, or traffic, have showed negligible increase for both the post-card and the inland letter at about 100 crore and 310 crore, respectively, for the last three years.

This is one of the factors adversely impacting the cost management of the Department of Post, whose finances have become a matter of concern.

During 2018-19, the Department reported a revenue of ₹13,482 crore and its gross expenditure was ₹27,918 crore. It ended the year with a deficit of ₹13,646 crore.

Though there have been some attempts at revising the price of the post-card, it has not happened so far.

According to historians like AR Desai, the post-card had done ‘magic’ for Indian nationalism. During the freedom struggle, it was the prime mode of communication on Indian National Congress meetings and correspondence between national leaders.

It remains to be seen how long it can hold out against the digital revolution without disappearing like the telegram.

Published on December 18, 2019
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