Misgovernance at India Post
Misgovernance at India Post

Sanghamitra Mukherjee has presented her pathetic story through video conferencing from Kolkata of continuous harassment at the hands of the Post office (North Kolkata Division) located in front of her residence in Kolkatta. She said that her parents Ramani Mohan Ghosh and Prof Kamala Ghosh had invested in the Post Office in North Kolkata Division; her parents expired and she is the only heir and nominee of her parents. 

She submitted death certificates and proved that she was nominee. She sought copies of the supporting documents of senior citizens such as MIS, RD, NSC, KVP, Savings account standing in names of her parents Ramani Mohan Ghosh and Prof Kamala Ghosh. Under RTI she also sought information regarding the process of claiming those amounts.  

The CPIO in his reply dated on 28.12.2015 did not give any information but demanded some more details from applicant like the date of investment, name of post offices, account numbers, certificate numbers etc. The Appellate Authority upheld the response as proper. 

She was all alone as she lost her husband also, suffering vision deficiency due to age and diabetes, and the officers at the post office were harassing her without giving details, and preventing her from realising the investments of her parents, despite hundreds of visits, as every time they made her wait for hours pretending to be searching for the details. 

After three years of harassment by the officers, she filed a request under the RTI. An employee who felt sympathetic to her after watching harassment she suffered at the hands his colleagues told her that the account details could be easily retrieved from the system at a click of mouse. She complained to the Commission that no officer tried sincerely to help her and they had no concern for her sufferings.

During the hearing, Sanjay Biswas, Asst. Suptd of Posts representing Dinanath Prasad, CPIO, was equally non-responsive and was presenting lengthy arguments justifying the denial.  He blamed applicant saying she did not give necessary details. Sanjay Biswas told the Commission that it would be impossible to give her the information sought. He failed to prove office efforts to find the details. 

After hearing the lengthy submissions and non-responsive answers of Sanjay Biswas, the Commission is compelled to infer that the staff members colluded to deny her benefits and information, possibly for malicious reasons. Perhaps, some of them are delaying the matter with sinister motives. The situation warrants intervention of higher officers. The behaviour of the postal employees towards her was apparently inhuman, anti-RTI and unreasonable. 

It is unfortunate that even the first appellate authority justified the no-response without applying mind.  Their approach to the customer reflects the breach of trust and breach of contract. The information sought was about the core area of function of the post office that is properly operating savings investments. Even without RTI, they should have facilitated her to claim her parent’s money acting like trustees. 

Post officers have deliberately ignored that she was the nominee of those accounts. As a legal heir, she is entitled to her patent’s money under contract, and as a consumer she has a right to quick service also besides having RTI to all the information, she sought. Her RTI request reflects her unaddressed grievance and absence of governance in this public authority. 

The Commission directed the office of Chief Post Master General, West Bengal Division, to take necessary measures including conducting enquiry into the alleged harassment, denial of money & information to the appellant and also to redress her grievance within one month. 

The Commission directed Dinanath Prasad, CPIO, Goutam Jana, earlier CPIO,  Sanjay Biswas, Asst. Suptd. of Posts, considering him as deemed PIO, to show cause why maximum penalty should not be imposed upon each of them for not furnishing the information sought, and to explain why it should not be directed to pay compensation to the appellant. (Based on decision in Sanghamitra Mukherjee v. PIO, Department of Posts CIC/POSTS/A/2017/100006 on 16.3.2018)

Old age pension not paid 
Another appellant Manohari sought information regarding a senior citizen’s pension. Specifically, she sought the copies of vouchers of pension paid for the period – August 2013 to October 2013, March 2014 to May 2014, July and August 2014 and February 2015. CPIO on 08.02.2017 stated that the information sought was not clear and the payment of pension is made through money order and the same was upheld by the FAA. 

Being dissatisfied, the appellant approached this Commission, which directed the appellant to make a comprehensive representation about the shortcomings of his grievance and the respondent authority is hereby directed to provide action taken report and the extract of the register maintaining list of weeded out records, within 21 days from the date of receipt of his representation. The Commission also directed G N Kanwariya, Sr. Supdt. of Posts/CPIO to show cause why penalty should not be imposed against him for removing pension-related documents, which are permanent in nature.

The CPIO submitted his written explanation: “The appellant had sought certified copies of vouchers by which pension was being paid to her of the period mentioned above. They stated that payment of pension to old age person/widow/physically handicapped person are made through money order in Rajasthan.  The post office submits these vouchers to the Head Post Office in the respective district and subsequently the vouchers are sent to the Director Accounts Posts, Jaipur, and preservation period of paid vouchers are 18 months from the date of payment. 

They further submitted that initially the information was denied on the plea that it was incomplete as thousands of money orders were issued by them and the appellant had not provided money order number to the respondent, therefore the information could not be provided to the appellant. The status of the money order can be traced by the department only through the money order number. 

They further submitted that complete records relating to the pensions were kept in Deputy Collector office.  The Deputy Collector office issues pension payment order (PPO) to the individual pension holder and keep the information concerning payment of pensioners. The appellant can obtain the information from the Deputy Collector. The respondent authority further submitted that reply given by them is appropriate and accordingly prayed for dismissal of this appeal.”

The appellant advocate Ram Krishan submitted that senior citizen’s pension of around 11 months has not been paid to the appellant and he also alleged that pension of the said period had been withdrawn by the postman illegally. The appellant had filed a complaint dated 22.04.2015 in this regard, but the same was not addressed till date. The appellant inquired orally about the status of his pension for which the officer intimated that the same will be addressed soon. 

K N Kanwaria submitted that the records have been weeded out as the records pertaining to money orders are retained till 18 months from the date of its payment. Kanwaria further submitted that the appellant had not provided any money order number, therefore, the information could not be traced due to absence of money order number. The officer assured the Commission that he will investigate the matter and will provide the status of the said complaint.

The Commission directed the respondent authority to explain that why the records relating to money orders were destroyed, despite a complaint dated 22.04.2015 had been filed by the appellant for non-payment of his old age pension. Such kind of removal/destruction of the documents is not ethical under the eyes of law when the complaint is yet to be addressed.

The Commission directed the respondent authority to conduct a fresh inquiry in respect of the appellant’s complaint dated 22.04.2015 and provide the action taken report to the appellant and directed C N Kanwaria, the CPIO and Sugan Singh Shekhawat, the then CPIO, to explain why maximum penalty should not be imposed upon him for removing/destroying the records relating to money order, when a complaint is pending for redressal. 

(Based on decision in Manohari v. PIO, Department of Posts, CIC/POSTS/A/2017/130196 on 21.3.2018)