The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Post strike threat over couriers

New Delhi, Nov. 21: Another postal strike looms large over the country with more than 20,000 employees scheduled to march to the Prime Minister’s house next Thursday to oppose the corporatisation of the department and offering of licence to courier companies.

The National Federation of Postal Employees and the Federation of National Postal Organisation will submit a memorandum to Atal Bihari Vajpayee with signatures of more than two crore people opposing the corporatisation of the department.

“We have made our presentation before the parliamentary standing committee that is currently examining the Indian Post Office Act Amendment 1898 to allow courier service to work on a par with the postal department. But we feel that if a Bill is introduced to this effect, then the postal department and its employees will suffer,” said C. Chandran Pillai, secretary-general of the National Federation of Postal Employees.

“The move was opposed by us when the government had tried to corporatise the postal department. If that had been allowed, many employees would have lost their jobs. The government’s decision to introduce the Bill will not help the department in any way,” he added.

Industry organisations, however, say that instead of a Bill to further amend the Indian Post Office Act of 1898, it should have been a Bill to replace the Act.

While recognising the existence and operation of the courier industry, which has grown without government help or regulation, the Bill seeks to bring the courier companies on a par with the postal department. “The grant, denial, suspension and revocation of such registration being at the sole direction of the incumbent operator —that is the postal department — makes the need for an independent postal regulator more critical,” an industry observer said.

The issue is likely to hot up in the next few days with industry chambers and postal unions also preparing a list of issues that will determine their existence and their future prospects.

Earlier this year, the Cabinet had decided to impose a licence fee on the Rs 2,900-crore courier industry. The fee is yet to be spelt out but is said to have the potential to trigger a massive shake-up in the industry, which has about 2,300 players who have to survive on sliver-thin margins. Industry forecasts a 20 per cent growth in the sector this year, but the fee could upset all calculations.

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