The Department of Posts observed National Post Week from October 9-15 in various districts across the country to highlight why handwritten letters are still relevant and important in today’s India.
According to the World Energy Outlook survey from 2015, around 237 million Indians in rural areas live without electricity leave alone the internet. It is impossible for the people living in these areas to communicate with the outside world through electronic media. In 2015, there were around 1,54,939 post offices in India and 1,39,222 (89.86%) of these were located in rural areas.
On October 24, 1,000 children from eight schools in Kottayam, Kerala, wrote personalised handwritten messages to the District Chief of Police (DCP), N Ramachandran, about various issues of concern to them. These letters were written on postcards that were handed out to the kids free of cost by the postal department in the district.
The DCP has now formed a special team to take immediate action to solve the problems that the children brought up in the letters.
Alexin George, the Division Senior Superintendent of the Postal Department in Kottayam, spoke to The Better India about this Kutty (child) Thapal (post) project.
What was the inspiration behind this project? Alexin says, “The DCP was the keynote speaker during an exhibition organised at a local school. He expressed his disappointment at the fact that we’ve grown completely out of touch with art of writing letters and the children were quite enthused by his speech. During the National Post Week, post offices across the country find new ways to introduce children to letter writing through competitions on various subjects. But this time around, we thought we’d experiment with an idea that is more sustainable and impactful.”
“It is a novel concept as far as the general public in Kerala is concerned. We organised the event to revive the culture of writing personal messages among young people in our district. Letters are a very potent form of self-expression and they are a medium through which children can make their voices heard. We can get rid of boredom, isolation and self-centred attitudes through this exercise because it allows the children to reflect on their thoughts,” says DCP N. Ramachandran, who inspired the children.
The Postal Department of Kottayam has four subdivisions, and workers from these centres went to various schools across the district to raise awareness about the exercise. Over the course of the Postal Week, each child was given the opportunity to write a letter about anything he/she wanted – from voicing a grievance to praising the good work of the police.
“We received 1,000+ letters over the past few weeks and handed them over to the police on October 24. We are not entitled to read the letters but the District Police Officer told us he was able to find out about so many problems that children face daily,” said Alexin.
Children brought up pertinent issues, which they would find difficult to discuss through any other medium. They wrote about harrowing personal experiences – of being touched inappropriately in buses, fearing harassment from eve-teasers, and being victims of bullying in the classrooms.
“The exercise was not just about writing a letter as a nostalgic experience. It’s about giving children the opportunity to introspect and refine their thoughts. It was meant for the children to participate with the police, to be proactive in protecting their neighbourhoods and themselves,” said M. Ramachandran.
The DCP has constituted a special team of six members to look into the problems that were mentioned and intervene immediately. He said, “If it’s a major issue we will identify the children and approach them. We will have personal interaction with the child and try our best to address his/her grievance. And the kids are eagerly awaiting a solid response from a competent team.”
However, this is not the first time that the Indian Postal Service officer Alexin George has used the power of his position for the betterment of society. He belongs to the Civil Services Batch of 2013 and was posted to Coimbatore in the same year. During a chance visit to tribal hamlets in the Western Ghats in 2015, he realised that many tribals were not aware of/making use of government schemes that were meant to help them.
Post offices are especially relevant in areas where there is limited connectivity because they have very high penetration in such areas. They are important as facilitators, connecting people in these areas with not just relatives and friends but also the government so they can avail of beneficial schemes that will give them financial security.
One such scheme is the Sukkanya Samriddhi Yojana introduced in January 2015. This is a saving scheme that allows parents of under-18 daughters to deposit money in a recurring scheme through the post office and use the money, with accrued interest, for her education or other expenses later.
Alexin had all 23 girls living in seven hamlets enrol in this scheme through the Siruvani Adivaram Post Office in Coimbatore. He says, “This was the first time in the country that all the girls from seven tribal villages in a district were enrolled into the Sukkanya Samriddhi Yojana.”