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  • Context (TH I TW): The Post Office Act 2023 comes into effect. It repeals the Indian Post Office Act, 1898.

Key Provisions of the Act

Removal of the central government’s exclusive privileges

  • As per the old act, the central government has the sole right to send and deliver letters by post.
  • The Bill removes this right, opening up the postal sector to greater competition.
  • However, the Bill gives the Post Office exclusive right to issue postage stamps.

Central government to prescribe services to be offered

  • The Act specifies the services provided by the Post Office to include:
    1. Delivery of postal articles, including letters, postcards, and parcels
    2. Money orders.
  • The new Bill provides that the central government will prescribe the services of the Post office.

New grounds for intercepting shipments

  • The old Act allows for the interception of a shipment being transmitted through the post on grounds of any public emergency or in the interest of public safety or tranquillity.
  • Such interceptions may be carried out by the central government, state governments, or any officer specially authorised by them, and shipment can be detained or disposed of by the officer in charge.
  • The new Bill instead provides that the interception of a shipment may be carried out on the following grounds (By an officer empowered by the central government through a notification) :
    • security of the state,
    • friendly relations with foreign states,
    • public order, emergency, or public safety, and
    • contravention of the provisions of the Bill or any other law.

Removal of the Post Office’s powers to examine shipments

  • The Bill removes the powers of examination by the Post office.
  • It instead provides that in such cases, the central government may empower an officer of the Post Office to deliver the shipment to the customs authority or any other specified authority.

Director General to make regulations regarding services

  • The Act, as well as the Bill, provides for the appointment of the Director General of Postal Services.
  • The Director General will have powers to decide the time and manner of delivery of postal services.
  • The central government can notify charges for postal services through notifications.

Removal of offences and penalties

  • The new bill does not provide for many of the offences and penalties that were in the old Act, except amounts not paid or neglected by a user will be recoverable as arrears of land revenue.

Exemptions from liability

  • Both the old Act and the new bill maintain provisions that exempt the government and officers from liability related to the loss, misdelivery, delay, or damage to a postal article.
  • The Bill retains these provisions. However, it provides that instead of the central government, the Post office may prescribe the liability regarding its services.

India Post: A Brief Overview

  • India Post is a government-operated postal system under the Ministry of Communications.
  • The postal service in India was initiated in 1766 by Warren Hastings under the East India Company, known initially as “Company Mail.”
  • In 1854, it was modified into a service under the Crown by Lord Dalhousie, who introduced uniform postage rates and passed the India Post Office Act 1854.
  • India Post boasts around 1.54 lakh post offices, making it the world’s widest postal network.
  • The country is divided into 23 postal circles.

Historical Milestones

  • Government Savings Bank Act, 1873: This act paved the way for the establishment of Post Office Savings Banks throughout India.
  • Postal Life Insurance: Started in 1884 as a welfare measure for employees of the Posts & Telegraphs Department.
  • Indian Telegraph Act, 1885: Regulated telegraph services.
  • Indian Post Office Act, 1898: Regulated postal services.
  • Airmail and Innovations: India saw the world’s first official airmail flight in 1911. Additionally, India Post inaugurated a floating post office in Dal Lake, Srinagar, in 2011.

The role played by Indian Post in the Freedom Struggle movement

  • Communication network: The Indian Post provided a reliable means of communication for leaders, activists, and ordinary citizens to disseminate information about the struggle for independence.
  • Dissemination of ideas: Post offices served as centres for distributing pamphlets, newspapers, and other printed materials that spread nationalist ideas and inspired political activism.
  • Secret correspondence: It facilitated secret correspondence between freedom fighters and leaders.
  • Postal boycotts: During the freedom movement, Indians participated in postal boycotts and non-cooperation movements, refusing to use postal services as a form of protest against British rule.

The role played by Indian Post in the Socio-economic development of India

  • Financial inclusion: India Post has played a critical role in providing financial services to remote and underserved areas by offering savings accounts, deposit schemes, and small savings options.
  • Postal Savings: The schemes, such as the Public Provident Fund (PPF) and Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana, have contributed to personal financial security and promote savings habits among the masses
  • Social welfare: India Post has been involved in several social welfare schemes, such as the distribution of old age pensions and the MGNREGS wages.
  • Economic Growth: India Post’s extensive network and services have contributed to economic growth by facilitating trade, commerce, and the movement of goods and services across the country.
  • Life Insurance: The Postal Life Insurance (PLI) and Rural Postal Life Insurance (RPLI) programs have offered life insurance coverage to millions of people, promoting the culture of insurance.
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