The Indian Newspaper Society (INS) has recently presented to Dr Shakeel Ahmed, Minister of State for Communication and Information Technology, the problems faced by the publications from the postal department. In the memorandum, INS has demanded the postal authorities to shun the commercial approach and be part of the Government’s social service department for spreading knowledge and information.
According to INS, the Indian Post Office Act of 1898 realised that the public needed reading material for the development of the society. Newspapers and magazines, even if they are commercial ventures, ultimately serve the nation. They are the backbone of a vibrant nation. What was given by the foreign rulers is now taken away by the leaders and officials who have duty to public.
INS further stated that it was wrong to insist that the Government should earn money from every operation. The Government already spends huge amounts in the service of public like free mid-day meals, ensuring the survival democracy; while the budget of the Parliament and State Legislatures runs into several crores. It cited many such other examples.
INS stated, “It is surprising that the Government, which does all that to safeguard the democracy, is making such a hue and cry for pittance of loss it makes in transmitting the postal articles just because these are publications.”
INS said that according to the statistics of the Postal Department, newspapers and magazines pay revenue of Rs 476 crore, while incurring a loss of Rs 116 crore. On the other hand, loss on account of post cards is Rs 176 crore, Rs 174 crore for letter cards, Rs 79 crore for letters, Rs 484 crore for registration charges and Rs 319 crore for money orders.
The INS said that the 1898 Act, and the Rules of 1933 did not put many restrictions on the publishers, but that the Postal Department, in its enthusiasm to earn money, harassed the publishers by rewriting the law. The Postal Department was changing law by its circulars and letters, and the rules were being interpreted to suit the officials.
INS also pointed out to the Minister how the postal departments harassed the publishers. A letter sent by the Department of Posts, dated February 2, 2006, exceeded the rights given under the Act and Rules 1933. The second point of that letter talks about the size of the font of registration number, while the Act or Rules do not prescribe any size. INS then challenged the Department to show instances where the registration number was not readable. It had become a tool for local postmasters to harass publishers, said INS.
The Postal Department had begun to insist that all pages of a publication should be of the same size. However, the INS stated that the Department is not authorised for the same by the Act or Rules. The Postal Department insisted that the reading matter should account for more than 50 per cent of the publication, which again is not warranted by Act and Rules. The INS informed the Minister about such other problems.