A week after the government decided to shift to banks for distributing old-age pensions, India Post is trying hard to get back its largest customer in the state. The officials have sought an appointment with chief minister J Jayalalithaa to persuade her to switch back to the post offices. Losing the state's project could mean a loss of more than Rs 60 crore a month for India Post.
The old-age pension scheme was so far carried out by India Post, delivering monthly pensions at people's houses through money orders and cheques. It covers senior citizens, differently-abled people, destitute wives and widows and destitute agricultural labourers. The state government will switch to the banks by September.
The postal department gets Rs 25 as commission for each money order for more than 28 lakh pensioners, including 10 lakh in city. The government decided to choose banks for the scheme after the CBI apprehended 11 postmen for malpractices in 2010. In order to mollify the state government, India Post has already done some damage control and will be regularizing its services. "We dismissed two other postal officials. We have set up monitoring cells for the scheme. We also have special adalats to settle grievances," said a senior official in the Tamil Nadu circle of the postal department. The department has also furnished details of fake names and addresses in the scheme to the state government. "We have received no complaints in the last two months," he said.
The department will offer savings accounts for pensioners in the postal banks. "This government is already considering savings accounts for pensioners in the banks. We have the expertise to handle this. We deal with more money in the form of small savings accounts than all the commercial banks," the official said
If agreed upon, the pensioners' savings accounts could bring in an additional revenue of Rs 45-50 crore for India Post. As an added incentive, the postal department is also upgrading all its services this year on a par with commercial banks.
India Post also expressed reservations about banks' ability to carry out the scheme. Nearly 70% of the beneficiaries under the scheme live in rural areas and remote places. "Banks do not have the network that we have when it comes to door-to-door delivery in remote areas. So we shall be asking the government to switch back to us."