The recent appointment of Arvind Saxena as the chairman of the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) has brought the focus back on a relatively little-known branch of the country’s bureaucracy — the Indian Postal Service (IPoS).
Arvind Saxena, who took charge Thursday, is the first former Indian Postal Service (IPoS) officer to be appointed as the UPSC chairman. Another officer from the cadre, IMG Khan, is a member of the UPSC.
While it is a relatively low-profile department, several Indian Postal Service (IPoS) officers occupy important positions in the central government ministries.
The Indian Postal service has also produced bureaucrats such as former R&AW chief Vikram Sood, and former special secretary, cabinet secretariat, Tilak Devasher, apart from Arvind Saxena.The three of them, however, have not served in the IPoS for too long.
Vikram Sood, who authored The Unending Game: A Former R&AW Chief’s Insights into Espionage, was permanently absorbed into the R&AW cadre and served there for 31 years.
Tilkak Devashar, a South Asia expert and author of Pakistan: At the Helm, had also served a long tenure in cabinet secretariat before retiring in October 2014. Formerly, an officer from the Indian Postal Service (IPoS), he had resigned from the service before working in cabinet secretariat.
Arvind Saxena too served in R&AW for twenty-seven years, since he joined the agency in 1988.
An old service : Indian Postal Service (IPoS)
The Indian Postal Service (IPoS) is one of the oldest Group ‘A’ Central Civil Services, where officers are selected through the prestigious civil services examination conducted by the UPSC.
Indian Postal Service (IPoS) officers are tasked with looking after the overall administration of the Postal Division where they are posted. This includes management of postal services and operations, looking after post offices and mail offices, expansion of the postal network, public grievance redressal and personnel management.
Once considered a crucial service, when post offices played a significant role in the country’s affairs, the Indian Postal Service (IPoS) has fallen down the pecking order in Indian bureaucracy.
But while its role may have been diminished, the Indian Postal service has been reinventing itself, beating back predictions that it would become redundant, with the death of traditional mail.
“Till the 1970s, it was considered a crucial service and the backbone of India’s communication network with its network spread in every nook and corner of the country,” a senior IPoS officer told The Print. “The service was influential for mobilising small savings of the government and also government funds to states for developmental work.” The officer added that with the advent of unregulated courier services, banks and the internet in the late 80s and early 90s, the service went through a ‘dark’ period. “Many of these challenges still remain because of the delay in decision making and implementation of suggestions recommended by various internal committees in tackling these challenges,” the official said. The officer added that while Indian Postal Service (IPoS) is still considered one of the most trusted networks in the country, there continues to be a deficit in the expenditure, incurred especially in human resources and other technologies, and the revenue earned by the department.