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Late letter: Presidential speed post does a snail mail

The postal department seems to have ensured equality for all, but not in a manner the founding-fathers of the Constitution had envisaged.

A ‘speed post’ from the President of India warmed a Calcutta speed-post counter for more than 72 hours and, ultimately, reached its destination, Bhabani Bhavan, six days after it was mailed from the Rashtrapati Bhavan post office in New Delhi.The result: a function organised by the West Bengal Minorities’ Commission, an integral part of the system that has the President of India at its apex, was forced to do without the most important message — that from A.P.J. Abdul Kalam — last Friday.

“Even as the seminar got underway on May 16, we wondered why the message had not reached us,” commission chairman Justice K.M. Yusuf said. “It landed on my table on May 19, three days after the programme.”

As the import of the delay dawned on the postal department, officials scurried to find an alibi. They tried to blame it on two mid-week holidays and a Sunday, but could not explain why the Presidential ‘speed-post’ did not reach the Commission’s office on May 14, a full working day, even though the Alipore speed-post centre received it that morning. “Speed post from one metro to another is meant to reach in one working day,” a senior postal department official admitted. “Besides, being a Presidential mail from Rashtrapati Bhavan, some mechanism should have been evolved to get around the two holidays,” he said, adding that “whatever be the case, a speed post should not take more than 24 hours to reach Calcutta from Delhi”.

The Presidential message was mailed from the Rashtrapati Bhavan post office on May 13. The special envelope — having a largish card inside and five Rs-10 stamps outside and found to weigh exactly 96 g — had the following inscription:

From: President of India, Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi-110004. To: Shri Justice K.M. Yusuf, former judge, Calcutta High Court, West Bengal Minorities’ Commission, Government of West Bengal, Bhabani Bhavan, Calcutta-700027.

The mail reached the Alipore speed-post centre on May 14. But then, the speed post did a snail mail. “We don’t know why the mail was not delivered the same day,” said Apurba Chanda, Alipore speed-post centre superviser. For the “exact details”, one would have to speak to the postman on beat no. 5 ,who was not there.

“I don’t know the details of the case,” said director, postal services (south Bengal), P.M. Lal. “A speed post usually takes a day from one metro to another and, by that rule, the Presidential mail should have reached the recipient on May 14,” he admitted, but added that certain factors (like time of mailing) would have to be taken into consideration.

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