Consumers Sidelined

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This is not new at all. It has been happening all the while in Manipur. The story of courier services taking the consumers for granted is perhaps as long as these services were introduced in the state. Before the liberalisation era, and even in the early years of liberalisation in the 1980s, there was only the government owned Speed Post for the people to depend on for sending urgent mails and parcels across India. This was the era when there was only Indian Airlines operating the sky, Ambassador and Fiat cars ruled the streets, Vespa and Yezdi two wheelers were the only few brands available. Fast mail then meant delivery within a week. A lot has changed since. A surfeit of private airlines has virtually pushed the government carrier out of business. They have also shrunk India in time and space considerably. Not only can a traveller from Imphal reach Delhi in a single day, but he or she can return from Delhi on the same day. He now also has a choice of airlines to choose from to travel on any given day. Twenty five years ago this would have been unthinkable.

This has also meant air mail delivery time has been shortened unimaginably. The best courier services loudly boast of the capability to deliver mails and parcels to any destination in India from anywhere within 24 hours, and at the most 48 hours. But business being business, when the market becomes weighted towards the sellers, the sellers begin to take advantage of buyers. This was happening in the air courier business till only a few years ago. In a place like Imphal, where consumers are not so bothered of their rights, they were ending up not being given the service they paid for. Other than a few top end courier services, there were courier services, such as one called DTDC, which began insisting customers to collect their parcels from their office, as if this was the natural thing customers were expected to do. And people did do as dictated, because they wanted their goods in their hands even if it meant a little extra effort. But today, even those who were indulging in such unfair business practices are having to change their ways because of the entry of a great number of very good private courier services. Unfortunately this change has not touched the government owned Speed Post. This is atrocious, for not only do the customers pay more than they would have paid for ordinary mails and parcels to use this service, but the employees of this government department are paid from public tax money, and they are paid much better than their private counterparts. As in most, if not all government services, complete lack of accountability has made their employees take things so easy, knowing their salaries do not depend on the quality of their work or the success of the enterprises which give them employment. No wonder so many public sector enterprises are loss making. In places like Manipur, they become defunct on a regular basis.

The IFP reported today of a case of Speed Post delay. The parcel in question was booked at a place in Karnataka on December 20, and within 24 hours, it landed at the Kolkata airport. It then disappeared from the internet parcel tracking facility of both the merchant, Amazon India, and also of India Post for 10 days, before the Imphal Airport NSH reported its receipt on January 1, and within an hour it was forwarded to the Imphal head office of the service. On January 2 morning, the internet tracking facility showed the parcel as received at the Imphal HO, and then nothing happened thereafter. At the end of the day today, January 8, the parcel is still lying at the Imphal HO. As reported again, the Imphal HO expects the customer to come and pick the parcel up from its premises. We do hope the postal service authorities are listening.

Leader writer: Pradip Phanjoubam

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