Indian Postal Service

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Department of Posts India
TypeAgency of the Government of India
Founded1 April 1774
HeadquartersNew Delhi, Delhi, India
Key peopleManjula Prashar, Director General
ServicesPostal system
Employees4,66,903 (As of 31 March 2011 (2011 -03-31))[1]
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Department of Posts India
TypeAgency of the Government of India
Founded1 April 1774
HeadquartersNew Delhi, Delhi, India
Key peopleManjula Prashar, Director General
ServicesPostal system
Employees4,66,903 (As of 31 March 2011 (2011 -03-31))[1]

The Department of Posts, trading as India Post, is a government-operated postal system in India; it is generally referred to within India as "the post office".

As of 31 March 2011 (2011 -03-31), the Indian Postal Service had 1,54,866 post offices, of which 1,39,040 (89.78 percent) were in rural areas and 15,826 (10.22 percent) in urban areas. It had 25,464 departmental POs and 1,29,402 ED BPOs. At the time of independence, there were 23,344 post offices, primarily in urban areas. The network has registered a sixfold growth since independence, with the expansion's focus primarily in rural areas. On average, a post office serves an area of 21.23 square kilometres (8.20 sq mi) and a population of 7,114; it is the most widely-distributed postal system in the world.[1] The large number is a result of a tradition of disparate postal systems, which were unified in the Indian Union after independence. Because of this far-flung reach and its presence in remote areas, the Indian postal service is also involved in other services (such as small-savings banking and financial services).

The postal service is under the Department of Posts, which is part of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology of the Government of India. The apex body of the department is the Postal Service Board, consisting of a chair and six members. The six board members govern personnel, operations, technology, postal life insurance, human-resource development (HRD) and planning. The joint secretary and financial adviser is also a permanent invitee.

India has been divided into 22 postal circles, each circle headed by a chief postmaster general. Each circle is divided into regions, headed by a postmaster general and comprising field units known as divisions (headed by SSPOs and SPOs). These divisions are further divided into subdivisions, headed by ASPs and IPSs. Other functional units (such as circle stamp depots, postal store depots and mail motor service) may exist in the circles and regions. In addition to the 22 circles, there is a base circle to provide postal services to the Armed Forces of India. The base circle is headed by a Director General, Army Postal Service (with a rank of major general).

The highest post office in the world is in Hikkim, Himachal Pradesh, India at a height of 15,500 ft (4,700 m) (postal code 172114).[2]



English East India Company, 1612–1857

The English East India Company (EIC) had a presence in India since the early 17th century. As it expanded its influence, there was a need to establish and maintain official and commercial mail systems.[3] The EIC opened a post office in Bombay in 1688 under the name “Company Mail”, followed by similar offices in Calcutta and Madras.[4] Although courier services connected larger towns with their regional seats of government, there was no integrated postal service operating before 1837; existing services were not generally intended for personal mail.[citation needed]

Side-by-side maps of India
India in 1765 and 1805, showing East India Company territories
Two more side-by-side maps of India
India in 1837 and 1857, showing EIC and other territories

Lord Clive established a postal plan (known as Jamidara Pratha) on 24 March 1766 in West Bengal.[5] The system was reorganised and made available for public use on 31 March 1774,[3] in 1778 in Madras and 1792 in Bombay[6] when Warren Hastings was Governor-General of India.[7] The first general post office operated by the EIC opened in Calcutta at that time, and a Postmaster-General was appointed in 1781.[citation needed] The Madras and Bombay Presidencies established similar arrangements in their regional capitals in 1778 and 1792, respectively.[6][page needed] After 1793, when Cornwallis introduced the Permanent Settlement, financial responsibility for maintaining the official posts rested with the zamindars. In addition, private dawk mail systems sprang up for the commercial conveyance of messages (using hired runners).[6] The EIC posts co-existed with postal systems maintained by a number of princely states. While the latter produced stamps for in-state use, British Indian postage stamps were required for sending mail beyond their boundaries.

Stamps were issued for the first time for all British India in 1854. The lowest denomination was the ½-anna (blue), followed by the one- (red) and four-anna (blue and red). They were printed from lithographic stones at the Surveyor-General's Office in Calcutta. Since the four-anna stamps were composed of two colours, they required two different printings (one for Queen Victoria's head in blue and the other for the surrounding red frame).

Post Office Act, 1837

The Post Office Act XVII of 1837 gave the Governor-General of India the right to carry letters by post within EIC territory. The system was available to certain officials without charge (which became a controversial privilege). The Indian Post Office was established on 1 October 1837[8] as a public postal system operated by the company's governing body. Post offices were established in major towns, and postmasters appointed. Postal services required advance payment in cash, prices varying with weight and distance.

Post Office Act, 1854

A commission was established in 1850 by Lord Dalhousie to evaluate the Indian postal system. It submitted its recommendations in 1851, resulting in the 1837 act being superseded by the Post Office Act of 1854. Postage stamps were introduced at this time and postal rates fixed by weight, no longer dependent on distance. The new provisions created a monopoly, whereby the Indian Post Office was charged with carrying mail throughout British India. Despite this, some princely states operated their own systems. Those known as Convention States (of which the first was Patiala in 1884) had agreements with the Post Office of India to provide service within their territories with overprinted stamps issued by the Post Office. Other princely states (known as Feudatory States) provided their own services and issued their own stamps (valid only within their own states).

Small lithograph
General Post Office, Calcutta (1833)
Two stamps, with Queen Victoria's profile surrounded by a red frame
Two 1854 four-anna stamps
Envelope with two rare, upside-down four-anna stamps
Rare stamps, with the head accidentally oriented upside-down relative to the frame
Pen-and-ink sketch of mountain with signal tower on top
Semaphore "telegraph" signalling tower in Silwar, Bihar (13 February 1823)

The post of Director-General of Post Offices of India was created to oversee operations, with H.P.A.B. Riddle the first appointee. The duties of the postmaster-general were separate from those of a presidency postmaster: while the former administered the postal system of the larger provinces (such as the Bombay Presidency or the North-Western Provinces), the latter attended to the smaller provinces (such as Ajmer-Merwara and major political offices such as Rajputana). The 1854 Act provided for uniform rates, routes and postmark-design specifications for each post-office category.

First Telegraph Act for India, 1854

Before the advent of electric telegraphy, the word "telegraph" was used for semaphore signalling. During the 1820s the East India Company government in India considered constructing signalling towers ("telegraph" towers), each 100 feet (30 m) high and 8 miles (13 km) apart, from Calcutta to Bombay. These towers were built in Bengal and Bihar, but an India-wide semaphore network never existed. By mid-century, electric telegraphy was viable and hand-signalling obsolete.

The first Telegraph Act for India was the British Parliament's Act XXXIV of 1854. When a public telegram service was begun in 1855, the charge was fixed at one rupee for each sixteen words (including the address) for every 400 miles of transmission. Charges were doubled for telegrams sent between 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.; these rates would remain fixed until 1882. In 1860–61 (two years after the end of Company rule), India had 11,093 miles (17,852 km) miles of telegraph lines and 145 telegraph offices. Telegrams totalling Rs. 5 lakh in value were sent by the public, expenses of the Indian Telegraph Department were Rs. 14 lakh and the capital expenditure until the end of the year totalled Rs. 65 lakh.

Posts and the British Raj (1858–1947)

The British Raj was instituted in 1858, when the rule of the East India Company was transferred to the Crown.[9] By 1861, there were 889 post offices handling nearly 43 million letters and over 4.5 million newspapers annually. The first superintendent of the post office was appointed in 1870 and based in Allahabad.[citation needed] In 1876, British India became the first non-founding member of the General Postal Union.[citation needed]

A number of acts were passed during the British Raj to expand and regulate Posts and Telegraphs service:

The world's first official airmail flight took place in India on 18 February 1911, a journey of 18 kilometres (11 mi) lasting 27 minutes. Henri Pequet, a French pilot, carried about 15 kilograms (33 lb) of mail (approximately 6,000 letters and cards) across the Ganges from Allahabad to Naini; included in the airmail was a letter to King George V of the United Kingdom.[10] India Post inaugurated a floating post office in August 2011 at Dal Lake in Srinagar, Kashmir.[11]

Telegraphy and telephony made their appearance as part of the postal service before becoming separate departments. The Posts and Telegraphs Departments merged in 1914, dividing on 1 January 1985.

Large building on city street
General Post Office at Hyderabad

Post-independence service

Since Indian independence in 1947 the postal service continues to function on a nationwide basis, providing a variety of services. The structure of the organisation has the Directorate at its apex; below it are Circle Offices, Regional Offices, the Superintendent's Office of Post Offices, Head Post offices, Sub-Post Offices and Branch Post Offices.[citation needed] In April 1959, the Indian Postal Department adopted the motto "Service before Self"; it revised its logo in September 2008.[12][page needed]

Postage-stamp history

First adhesive stamps in Asia

The first adhesive postage stamps in Asia were issued in the Indian district of Scinde in July 1852 by Bartle Frere, chief commissioner of the region.[13] Frere was an admirer of Rowland Hill, the English postal reformer who had introduced the Penny Post. The Scinde stamps became known as "Scinde Dawks"; "Dawk" is the Anglicised spelling of the Hindustani word Dak or ("post"). These stamps, with a value of 12-anna, were in use until June 1866. The first all-India stamps were issued on 1 October 1854.

EIC stamps issued after 1866

Tan paper with stamps
1955 money order (front)
Tan paper with round stamp on right
1955 money order (back)

The volume of mail moved by the postal system increased significantly, doubling between 1854 and 1866 and doubling again by 1871. The Post Office Act XIV introduced reforms by 1 May 1866 to correct some of the more obvious postal-system deficiencies and abuses. Postal-service efficiencies were also introduced. In 1863, lower rates were set for "steamer" mail to Europe at (six annas, eight pies for a 12-ounce letter. Lower rates were also introduced for inland mail.

New regulations removed special postal privileges enjoyed by officials of the East India Company. Stamps for official use were prepared and carefully accounted for, to combat abuses by officials. In 1854 Spain had printed special stamps for official communications, but in 1866 India was the first country to adopt the expedient of overprinting "Service" on postage stamps and "Service Postage" on revenue stamps. This innovation was later widely adopted by other countries.[14]

Shortages developed, so stamps also had to be improvised. Some "Service Postage" overprinted rarities resulted from abrupt changes in postal regulations. New designs for the four-anna and six-anna-eight-pie stamps were issued in 1866. Nevertheless, there was a shortage of stamps to meet the new rates. Provisional[15] six-anna stamps were improvised by cutting the top and bottom from a current foreign-bill revenue stamp and overprinting "Postage".

India was the first country in the Commonwealth to issue airmail stamps.

Post-independence stamps

Round red wax stamp
1850s Scinde Dawk stamp

India attained independence on 15 August 1947. Thereafter, the Indian Posts and Telegraph Department embarked on a broad-based policy for the issuance of stamps. The first new stamp was issued by independent India on 21 November 1947. It depicts the Indian flag with the patriots' slogan, Jai Hind ("long live India"), at the top right-hand corner. The stamp was valued at three and one-half annas.

A memorial to Mahatma Gandhi was issued 15 August 1948 on the first anniversary of independence. One year later a definitive series appeared, depicting India's broad cultural heritage (primarily Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Sikh and Jain temples, sculptures, monuments and fortresses). A subsequent issue commemorated the beginning of the Republic of India on 26 January 1950.

Definitives included a technology-and-development theme in 1955, a series depicting a map of India in 1957 (denominated in naya paisa—decimal currency) and a 1965 series with a wide variety of images. The old inscription "India Postage" was replaced in 1962 with "भारत INDIA", although three stamps (issued from December 1962 to January 1963) carried the earlier inscription.[16]

India has printed stamps and postal stationery for other countries, mostly neighbours. Countries which have had stamps printed in India include Burma (before independence), Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Portugal and Ethiopia.[17] The country has issued definitive and commemorative stamps. Six definitive series on India's heritage and progress in a number of fields have been issued. The seventh series, with a theme of science and technology, began in 1986. Between independence and 1983, 770 stamps were issued.



The first philatelic Society in India was founded in Bombay on 6 March 1897 to service postage-stamp collections.

Philatelic bureaus

Sheets of red, green and blue stamps
First all-India stamps

Philatelic bureaus were established in head post offices located at circle headquarters and at district-capital head post offices (as necessary). There are 68 philately bureaus and 1111 philatelic counters, including all head post offices (Mukhya Dak Ghars) in the country as of 31 March 2011.[18]:44

A domestic philatelic deposit-account system was introduced on 1 August 1965 at all philatelic bureaus. Customers are given priority in purchasing commemorative or special-issue stamps, first-day covers and information sheets soon after their issue by opening a deposit account at any philatelic bureau. The number of philately deposit-accountholders grew from 23,905 in 1999–2000 to 168,282 in 2006–2007 and 183,202 in 2008–2009. Four philatelic Bureaus—the Bombay, Madras, Calcutta and Parliament Street, New Delhi GPOs are authorised to sell United Nations stamps. A quarterly philatelic magazine, Philapost, was launched in 2008.

The Department of Post has also developed software for philatelic inventory management, known as "Philsim". It is used for all activities relating to philately, including forecasting, indenting, invoicing, monitoring supply and demand and recording sales and revenue for commemorative stamps and other philatelic products at philately bureaus and counters (and definitive stamps and stationery at circle stamp depots and head post offices.

National Philatelic Museum

The National Philatelic Museum of India was inaugurated on 6 July 1968 in New Delhi. It had its beginnings at a meeting of the Philatelic Advisory Committee on 18 September 1962. Besides a large collection of India Postage stamps designed, printed and issued, it has a large collection of Indian states (confederate and feudatory), early essays, proofs and colour trials, a collection of Indian stamps used abroad, early Indian postcards, postal stationery and thematic collections. The museum was renovated in 2009 with more exhibits, a philatelic bureau and postal objects (such as Victorian post boxes). The Department of Posts inaugurated the National Philatelic Museum on 11 July 2011. It exhibits rare postage stamps from around the world and provides a venue for philatelists to exhibit their collections.

Postal life insurance

Envelope with postmarks and three different stamps
Six-anna provisional, 1866 (Bombay to London by steamer, 29 days)

Due to the popularity of postal life insurance, it was offered to other departments of the central and state governments. Postal life insurance is available to employees of all central- and state-government departments, nationalised banks, public-sector and financial institutions, local municipalities, district councils and educational institutions receiving government subsidy. It was extended to all rural residents on 24 March 1995.

Project Arrow

Project Arrow was launched in April 2008.[12] The project plans to upgrade post offices in urban and rural areas, improving service and appearance. The project aims to create an effective, friendly environment for staff and customers, providing secure IT services and improving mail delivery, remittances (electronic and manual) and postal-savings plans. Core areas for improvement are branding, information technology, human resources and infrastructure. The project to improve service has been implemented in more than 15,500 post offices, and cosmetic improvements have been made in 1,530.[citation needed] The Department of Posts received the Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence in Public Administration during 2008–09 for “Project Arrow – Transforming India Post” on 21 April 2010.[19]


Pink-and-brown stamp with Gandhi's head and shoulders, facing left
Rs 10 stamp with Mahatma Gandhi, released 15 August 1948

The government has approved an IT modernisation project in the Department of Posts for the computerisation of all post and mail offices, administrative and other offices, establishment of IT infrastructure and software development. The project includes supplying rural ICT hardware and peripherals to branch post offices in rural areas, developing of scalable, integrated and modular software covering all postal operations and establishing an IT infrastructure (including data centers and Wide Area Network (WAN)-based networking.


Multipurpose counter machines with computers were introduced in post offices in 1991 to:

25,000 departmental post offices (out of 25,464) have been computerised from 2006–2007 to 2011–2012. A plan (costing Rs.1877.2 crore) has been formulated to computerise rural post offices.[20][dead link]

Financial services

Brown-and-pink stamp depicting a temple
Satrunjaya (Jain temple complex near Palitana), 15 August 1949

Postal savings

The post office offers a number of savings plans, including National Savings Certificates,[21] the Public Provident Fund,[22] savings-bank accounts,[21] monthly-income plans,[21] senior-citizens' savings plans[22] and time-deposit accounts.[22]

Life insurance

Policies for government employees include:[23]

For the general public:

Other services

Tall, round red mailbox with decorative crown on top
British-era letterbox in Shimla

The post office has traditionally served as a financial institution for millions of people in rural India. Other services include:

Data collection

A collaboration between the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MOS&PI) and the Department of Posts has enabled the computation of consumer-price indices for rural areas. These statistics were previously unobtainable, due to problems of remoteness and scale. The agreement authorises the postal service to collect data on prices paid for selected consumer goods; in February 2011, MOS&PI published its first Rural Consumer Price Index and All-India Consumer Price Index. The information has since been published monthly, based on data from 1,181 villages across the country.[1]

PIN codes

The Postal Index Number (PIN, or PIN code) is a six-digit code of post-office numbering introduced on 15 August 1972. There are nine PIN regions in the country; the first eight are geographical regions, and the ninth is reserved for the Army Postal Service. The first digit indicates the regions; the first two digits indicate the sub-region (or postal circle); the first three digits indicate a sorting district, and the last three digits indicate the delivery post office. Use of PIN codes improves mail service.[24] The PIN for an address may be found on the Postal Service website.[25]


India Post was embroiled in controversy when a Right to Information query by Satendra Singh revealed that a majority of post offices in India's capital city are inaccessible to persons with disabilities.[26][27][28]

See also


  1. ^ a b c
  2. ^ "World's Highest Post Office". Stamps of India. Retrieved 24 April 2011.
  3. ^ a b Mohini Lal Majumdar, Early History and Growth of Postal System in India, RDDHI-India, Calcutta (1995), p. 67. ISBN 81-85292-07-8
  4. ^ "Postal History of India". Archived from the original on 25 November 2012. Retrieved 25 November 2012.
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b c E. G. Oehme, India Post, No. 72. India Study Circle.
  7. ^ name="Dattas1">Pg 29, Datta et al. (2009). Rare stamps of the World.
  8. ^ Robson Lowe, Encyclopedia of British Empire Postage Stamps, v. III London, Robson Lowe, Ltd. (1951) p. 134
  9. ^ Kaul, Chandrika. "From Empire to Independence: The British Raj in India 1858–1947.". Retrieved 3 March 2011.
  10. ^ "The world's highest post office!". Rediff India. Retrieved 24 April 2011.
  11. ^ Indo-Asian News Service (2011-08-22). "Srinagar gets floating post office". The Times of India. Retrieved 2012-06-07.
  12. ^ a b
  13. ^
  14. ^ Alan C. Campbell, "The Design Evolution of the United States Official Stamps", U.S. Philatelic Classics Society Chronicle, Vol. 48, Nos. 1 and 2, Whole Nos. 169 and 170 (February and May,1996).
  15. ^ Refresher Course
  16. ^ Saksena, V. ibid., p. 84.
  17. ^ Saksena, V. (1989), pp. 86–8.
  18. ^ "Annual Report 2010-2011". Retrieved 7 October 2012.
  19. ^ .^
  20. ^ "India News in Hindi, Latest Hindi News Punjab & World News, Hindi Newspaper". Retrieved 2012-06-07.
  21. ^ a b c
  22. ^ a b c "Welcome to the Indiapost Web Site". Retrieved 2012-06-14.
  23. ^ "Customer Portal". Postal Life Insurance. Retrieved 2012-06-07.
  24. ^ punjab kesri- bal kesri dtd 7 Jan 2012
  25. ^ "Welcome to the Indiapost Website". Retrieved 2012-08-04.
  26. ^ "No ease of access to post offices for disabled". The Times Of India Delhi. 29 Oct 2012. Retrieved 17 November 2012.
  27. ^ "Many post offices not accessible to disabled, reveals RTI query". The Hindu. 12 Nov 2012. Retrieved 17 November 2012.
  28. ^ "Capital shocker: Post offices lack facilities for disabled". The Statesman. 5 Nov 2012. Retrieved 17 November 2012.

External links

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