Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Day at the Parcel Office


“I can’t take you in. Actually rickshaws aren’t permitted inside,” cried the driver of the tricycle that was carrying me and the tightly tied up cardboard box to New Delhi Railway station’s Parcel Booking Office. It was my sister’s idea to book the biggest package separately as a parcel on the same train that she is travelling on. I found it ironical that a parcel office doesn’t have carriage trolleys for people to push their packages to the building from the gate, and vehicles (like the tricycle that I hired) aren’t permitted to enter the campus. How am I supposed to present a 35-kilo heavy cardboard box from the office gate to the booking centre a 100 metres away? Surprising.

My brother-in law came to my rescue and together we lifted the box to the booking centre, surpassing the calls of middlemen/agents/touts that swarm every government (especially the Railways) office. Three Hours, two middlemen and numerous babus (clerks) later, the work is done and we all go home. So what’s about the situation? Everything.

India is a populous country, and most of us at some point of our lives board the train to travel long distances. Since we have a large migrant population (within ourselves, living in states/cities outside our natural places of birth or residence) using the services of Indian Railways, the market size is enormous. Add to it the culture of carrying a heap of baggage around, I should say the Indian Railways are sitting on a goldmine of potential business if handled properly. Through numerous Railway Budgets, we see how many new trains are on the go, how expensive the on-bard beverages and food is going to be, etc. But the average customer is not aware about any government effort to make the parcel van services being more supportive or user-friendly.  I would be happier to send my luggage through parcel booking services during my train travels if the government shall assure the following:

(a)    User-friendly office premises and staff

I don’t want to manually lift up a 45-kilo box and walk a 100 meters to get it booked. Also I prefer talking to one or two clerks who actually knows something about the parcels and the possible trains. (They need to have some basic geographic knowledge since they are working with the national carrier.)

(b)   A genuine online booking/tracking facility

The present website for Indian Railways parcel tracking just mentioned the whereabouts of the booking. It didn’t mention which route the packet follows, which day the packet is loaded on the train, and which station did it finally reach.

(c)    A prompt complaint/grievance redressal and enquiry counter

When my sister complained that her package didn’t reach the destination I had to go to the parcel booking office again, to make sure if the package is still left behind in New Delhi railway station unattended.  I had to talk to seven different people to get the assurance that my package has already been sent. I wondered if they have any proper enquiry counter (just like it works with a bank it a telecom office) where you walk in provide the details, and the official confirms the delivery with the necessary inputs.

To my big relief, my sister called up to confirm that the luggage was indeed delivered at the station (it was 4 grueling days late), and that she is finally happy. I wish such an unpleasant situation doesn’t happen in other people’s lives.
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