THIS MONTH, Kurla residents have been receiving posts on Sundays, the one day of the week when men in khaki, lugging large paper and parcel filled sacks, are not seen. At the post office, a simple equation makes it clear why. 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 with a bag slung on his shoulders for 27 years, was suspended earlier this month for allegedly dumping the letters in three locations, including a watchmen’s 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 asked the postman to take the bags away but he ignored. Finally, we complained to the post office,” said Visaria, 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. Days later, postman S T Ballal was suspended pending an inquiry.
V K Gupta, Postmaster General, Mumbai Region, and H C Agrawal, Chief Postmaster General, Maharashtra Circle, said they were unaware of the incident and did not respond to messages seeking comment.
Ballal’s stash included stacks of letters from insurance companies asking customers to pay 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 friendship with a watchman, Prahlad Yadav. “He would tell me that he was unable to cope with the load of letters he had to deliver every day. If he had only discussed the problem with his superiors, I am sure they would have found a solution,” said Yadav.
The one thing that has left post office employees surprised is that they did not receive a single complaint from local residents who may have missed up 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 much sooner,” said a postman. “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.