Mumbai: Twenty-two postmen are racing against time to deliver 14,000 letters that were allegedly deliberately undelivered over two years. The man responsible, who roamed the streets of Kurla West with a large bag slung on his shoulders for 27 years, was suspended earlier this month for allegedly dumping the letters in three locations, including a watchmen cabin in a housing society.
It all began on July 7 when Vipul Visaria, who lives in Chhadva Nagar Society on Match Factory Lane, Kurla West, decided that the bags containing undelivered posts had overstayed in the cabin.
“We had warned the postman many times and asked him to take the bags away but he just ignored us. Since we knew what he was doing was illegal, we decided to complain to the local post office,” said Visaria, a member of the society’s managing committee.
Visaria sent pictures of a heap of letters to officers at the post office on New Mill Road near the railway station. Days later, S T Ballal, the postman allotted beat number 15, which spans a portion of the arterial Lal Bahadur Shastri Road, Match Factory Lane and New Mill Road, was suspended pending an inquiry.
V K Gupta, the Postmaster General, Mumbai Region, and H C Agrawal, Chief Postmaster General, Maharashtra Circle, both said they were unaware of the incident and did not respond to text messages seeking comment.
Ballal’s stash included stacks of letters from insurance companies asking customers to pay monthly premiums, magazines, calendars and at least 2,000 Aadhaar Cards dating back to 2015 and that is only at Chhadva Nagar.
Days after he was caught, the postal department also found thousands of undelivered mails at the home of a temporary staffer assigned to work with Ballal and at a tailor’s shop close by. Ballal’s colleagues at the post office say they just could not understand his intentions. “He’s not telling us why he stopped delivering mails. I don’t understand why he did this. He was only six years away from retiring,” said a postman at Kurla.
The answer may lie at Chhadva Nagar where Ballal had struck up a close friendship with a watchman, Prahlad Yadav. “He (Ballal) would tell me that he was unable to cope with the load of the letters he had to deliver every day. Instead of not doing his job, if he had only once discussed the problem with his superiors. I am sure they would have found a solution,” said Yadav.
He added that on most days, Ballal would leave letters in the cabin and wander off, delivering a few posts for an hour in the evening before returning with a fresh load the next day. For an area that is densely populated with houses and a busy market, the post office has only 22 postmen currently, in spite of a sanctioned staff strength of 43.
The one thing that surprises the post office employees about the entire episode is how they did not receive a single complaint from the local people who may have missed up to two years of utility bills, EMI and insurance payment reminders, employment letters and other important parcels.
“If only someone had told us that they weren’t receiving letters. We could have found out about this ourselves much sooner,” said another postman who did not want to be named.
Right now though, there is little time to brood over Ballal. His letters have been sorted by names and addresses and distributed among the 22 postmen and a few other temporary staffers to be delivered.
“Maybe people aren’t troubled by not receiving letters anymore. Everyone pays their bills online now. So, a letter isn’t so important. They just didn’t notice that something was missing,” said a postman.