COVID no damper for Dak warriors
Supply medicines to needy; ensure social security pensions reach beneficiaries in timeby Ravi Reddy
Without fanfare or wide publicity, a team of over 4,500 staffers of Hyderabad region of India Post turned saviours for thousands of people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown that threw normal life out of gear for months.
As the wave of pandemic struck the country and began to show its impact in Telangana too, post offices across the State began to play a distinct role as a disaster management agency. All the 519 sub postmasters and 4,156 branch postmasters in Hyderabad region covering 26 districts of the State rose to the occasion.
188 staffers affected
Undeterred by the fact that 188 employees contracted coronavirus in the line of duty, the postal staff risked their lives coming in contact with lakhs of rural people. With financial institutions and banking services paralysed, India Post in the rural areas became the single stop hub for paying the beneficiaries the much needed pensions and other benefits.
The rural population owex a lot to the postal employees for they helped in payment of cash under the various direct benefit transfer schemes. A staggering ₹3,479 crore was disbursed to the 67.02 lakh beneficiaries of Aasara social security pension and NREGS, food security card holders and payments through the India Post Payments Bank from May till August-end.
P.V.S. Reddy, Postmaster General, Hyderabad region, told The Hindu that it was not an easy task for the postal staff to handle the situation. “Payment of Aasara pensions, NREGS payments and other benefits was a big challenge. Our postmaster had to ensure that Aadhaar-based biometric authentication had to be done for each beneficiary before payment was made. This meant that each staff had to interact with 350 beneficiaries every month,” he said.
According to him, this was no mean task. “We provided sanitisers, gloves and face shield to the staff. We worked overtime. Our day began at 6.30 a.m. and went well past evening hours. We had to pay the pensions in a week’s time and this became a challenge,” Mr. Reddy pointed out.
The spirit of a few postal employees, who tested positive for COVID and recovered, did not diminish. Take the case of 59-year-old C. Venkateswarlu, sub-postmaster at Matwada of Warangal postal division, who tested positive in May. “On doctor’s advice, I remained in home isolation, took all precautions and recovered. I have rejoined duty and see to it that the customers, who flock the post offices, wear mask, use sanitisers at the post offices and maintain social distancing,” he observed.
Thirty-four-year old M. Chaitanya, branch postmaster under Pantini SO of Warangal Postal division, got admitted for COVID-19 treatment and rejoined duty in August after full recovery. After resuming duty, he saw to it that a sum of ₹8.50 lakh was disbursed in the form of pensions and NREGS payments for the month of August alone.
Another Dak warrior S. Satish, postal assistant in Peddapally head post office, says there is no need to lose confidence if ones contract COVID. “Take proper precautions and you can keep the virus away,” he said, adding that he was ready to donate plasma to help others.