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Unfit government employees survive and thrive

March 3, 2009

The post office in the picture above is the SP college post office on Tilak Road, in Pune. It looks clean and neat and quiet doesn’t it? Well, that was because it was almost five ‘o” clock and all the counters were closed. When the counters are open there is mayhem. And naturally so. The method of working of the office ensures that the counters are always crowded. They work so as to keep the customers waiting as long as possible and try very hard to make them come back the second time.

I wonder what the motive is, but can’t help thinking that it is harass to customers. The employees must be getting some  kind of pleasure by making people wait and even more pleasure when they force customers to return again and again and again. What a sense of power it must be giving them…these people who shuffle papers all day long! I guess it is this power that makes their job worth it.

All of us have been at the receiving end of government efficiency at some time or the other. We all learn to live with it and try to work around it. I was lucky that I had a choice, that I didn’t have to do business with the government in this case…and at the end of it all I could only marvel at the amount of damage employees cause to their own office without being penalised or reprimanded.  Their jobs are ofcourse safe, very safe. They also continue to get raises and promotions.

Here’s my little experience:

I was in Pune on Monday to renew a sizeable amount that I had kept in a monthly income scheme (called MIS) five years ago. I wanted to combine the interest and the principal amount and reinvest it in the same scheme. The investment counter was crowded with agents, the people who do these kinds of  jobs on behalf of clients. I wanted to do this myself as at that point of time I had no agent. There were very few individual customers like me. I was fifth in line and waited patiently for my turn. 30 minutes later it was my turn, and it had been an interesting 30 minutes as the lady behind the counter argued or was rude to everyone in the line before me. In one case she gave a customer Rs 1000/- instead of Rs 6000/- and he had to return to get the correct amount. Some regular customers whispered to me that the woman loved to keep people waiting and liked it even more if they were sent away and told to come back the next day or even better…after 8 days!

When it was my turn I experienced this first hand. (The conversation took place in Marathi).

Me: My deposit has matured and I want to renew it, alongwith the interest.
Lady at the counter: (briefly glanced at me and went back to shuffling papers) What?

I repeated what I said. Without looking at me she shoved a slip of paper towards me and asked me to fill it up.
I examined that slip. I had to fill in the amount in two places. I was still at the counter although now the customer behind me was engaged in a conversation with the lady. After waiting a few minutes I got a word in.

Me: What is the amount I need to fill in? I don’t know the interest accrued.
The woman looked at me briefly again, as if amused, and then went back to discussing something with the customer. She completely ignored me, although I repeated my request several times.

Finally I turned to another lady behind another counter, who was sitting right next to Lady no 1,  and repeated my question.
Lady no 2: Write the principal amount there.
Me: I write the principal amount even though I want to reinvest the whole amount? I don’t write the interest?
Lady no 2: No. You write just the principal amount.

She spoke very loudly, which she had to as the place was noisy. Lady no 1 heard and I thought if she heard and didn’t contradict lady no 2, then it must be correct.

So I filled the slip and wrote the amount in words and figures. Then I went back to the counter which was by now even more crowded. Even though I told the customers in the front that I had come in there earlier and I just had to give my slip (so I thought) none of them would budge and let me talk to the lady. You don’t have a token they said. I didn’t get a token I said. They didn’t care. So I had to wait.

I waited for another 30 minutes or so. When I reached the counter I gave the filled in slip to Lady no 1. She glanced at it and then said it’s the wrong amount. I needed to write the amount + the bonus.

Me: I don’t know what the bonus is. And that lady over there said it was okay to write the principal amount.
Lady no 1 sneered: I am in charge of investment, not she.

I said nothing and watched as she looked up some ledger and then scratched out the amount I had written on the slip. She wrote another amount and asked me to sign, which I did. The new figure she had written was the principal amount plus the bonus. Clearly the interest was not included in this amount and I had started to feel a little confused as I wanted to reinvest the principal amount + the interest.

Lady no 1: Come back at 5 o clock and collect the cheque.
Me: Is a cheque necessary? Can’t you transfer the amount without giving the cheque? I also want to invest all the the interest that has accrued.
Lady no 1 looked blank: You want to reinvest?
Me: Yes, that is what I told you at the start. I want to re-invest all the money.
Lady no 1: So you don’t want to withdraw the amount?
Me: No, no. I don’t want to withdraw the amount. I want to re-invest. I told you that.
Lady no 1 (looked flustered): For that you need references
Me: Whose references?
Lady no 1 (she had regained her composure and was smiling as if I had said something stupid): People who know you and know me ofcourse!
Me: I need references for just renewing the deposit?
Lady no 1: You also need your pan card.
Me: I have a pan card. But can you do the renewing today itself? I don’t live in Pune.
Lady no 1 (irritated now) : You people come and want everything to be done instantly! This is not possible. These things take time.
Me (very politely): All I did was ask if it was possible today. If it is not possible, then tell me the complete procedure.What is the procedure?

She shoved a form towards me, a completely different form from what she had given me earlier. She told me that I had to fill that in and give it to her if I wanted to renew my account.
Me: And then what do I do?

I was sick of this piecemeal approach. At the same time I was growing increasingly sceptical about the investment. If this woman had given me this form earlier, it would have saved me about 45 minutes. I was trying not to think of how much time I would need to fill up this new form and then wait in line again. I glanced at the clock behind the lady. It was edging towards 1 p.m. and their lunch time was at 1:30 p.m. This could go on till after lunch…but was this counter even open after lunch? And I had to get back to Mumbai that same evening.

As I was wondering what to do she seemed to lose it. She snapped.
Lady no 1: I am very busy as you can see and I have no time to answer any of your questions. There are some agents here, ask them!
For the first time a customer standing behind me spoke up. He had been listening to the exchange. He didn’t address the lady but commented to me.
Customer: But telling you about the scheme is her job!
By that time I had already made up my mind. I thought the lady was incompetent and even if I invested in a post office scheme it would certainly not be in this post office.
Me (very quietly): I don’t want to reinvest. You told me to collect my cheque at 5 and I will do that.
Lady no 1: Yes I think that’s the best thing for you. Collect your cheque at 5!
End of conversation!

As I left the post office I could not help wondering whether this woman who was handling investments for the post office was in cahoots with the agents and was therefore being unhelpful and difficult. She had behaved badly with some other customers as well and was behaving better with the agents, who all apparently knew her.

Or maybe this is the only way she gets sleep at night. Thinking of all the customers she had harassed that day. I doubt whether she loses any sleep over the fact that she is losing the post office business.

Later in the evening I collected my cheque and am now planning to invest it somewhere else. Maybe in a fixed deposit. The post office in any case was offering only 8% on an investment period of 6 years…I think I can find a better alternative. What a shame though. I am actually a great admirer of the Indian Posts, about which I have written here. But as you can see from the photograph below, even the name of their post office is not clearly visible. If they do not care about their own office, where is the chance of them caring about their customers?

88 Comments leave one →
  1. March 3, 2009 8:32 pm

    Horrible woman!! Kudos for remaining calm.
    Some employees not necessarily govt are just so mean and frustrated that they take it out on their customers. We have one suck bank official in the bank in our college campus. Many of us actually gave a written complaint against his behavior but the Bank didnt take any action.

    Reema your comment went into moderation as you used the word “suck” which is on my moderation list! 🙂 And actually I know it was a spelling mistake! About the bank not taking action, I am not at all surprised! I think if it is a government bank you can complain to a higher authority. – Nita.

  2. March 3, 2009 8:46 pm

    @ Nita : Some days ago I had done a post on India Post. I have been a victim of their incompetence and their rude behaviour a couple of times. I think the Post Bank should be separated from the Post Office. At the moment neither do they process mail properly nor do they run the insurance or the bank properly. Instead the government seems determined to add more distractions to India Post like selling gold, selling SBI products, Western Union and god knows what else. May be in an year you may even be buying a buffalo at the post office. I think the company or whatever it is now also should also have some private investment in it. I hope you will read my post as well and read my wonderful experience with them.

    • March 3, 2009 10:12 pm

      Buy a buffalo eh! 🙂 Well, that might improve their efficiency as they might want to get rid of the buffaloes as quickly as possible! 🙂 About your post, I didn’t actually read that post of yours. Why don’t you give a link here? I have been quite behind reading blogs of late.

  3. March 3, 2009 9:11 pm

    🙂 I am not surprised,even i had similar experiences..The crux of the issue is lack of accountability,internal politics,Trade union interferences in case the superior takes some action,and finally,lack of adequate resources..There aren’t enough employees in govt sector and many of them are overlosaded and in due time,they get sick and immune to criticisms and ecen stop doing their original duties…

    Just my observations-maybe wrong..

  4. vasudev permalink
    March 3, 2009 9:16 pm

    nita…quite contrary to what you experienced at pune i had many pleasant experiences with a gpo at annanagar, chennai. there those guys were truly most efficient and courteous in extending their services to customers. at the counter submiting my nsc, cancelling it, verifying my signature with records 6 yrs old and collecting cash was all just a matter of less than 5 mins!

  5. March 3, 2009 9:16 pm

    Even though the incident described by you should surprise no Indian inured as we are to the tyranny of the Indian bureaucracy, I still could not help feeling livid!

    For whatever it is worth, I feel you should bring this incident to the notice of the Post Master General, Pune circle!

    • March 3, 2009 10:08 pm

      Thanks Rada. In fact I know someone who has the email id of the post master general and will be complaining to him directly.

  6. March 3, 2009 9:44 pm

    Customer service in Govt. offices is pathetic. Only way is to take a stand and file a complaint. These days, they are often taken quite seriously (I’ve seen cases worked in bank, railway and other govt offices). Of course, sometimes they fall on deaf year. But we have to fight to get things done like RTI or so.

    Here are links for online complains…

    Thanks Ashish. Yes, I do plan to complain. Just wanted to get it all down on paper first. – Nita.

  7. March 3, 2009 9:49 pm

    wonderful narration.

    The main reason is ofcourse as you said

    “What a sense of power it must be giving them”

    I have lived in Pune, as well as Bangalore, I feel People in Pune are more Akadu, and Bangalore fares much better in this respect (according to my experience i.e).

    This is what Nehru left us with….Socialism.:-(. which doesn’t work whatsoever.

  8. wishtobeanon permalink
    March 3, 2009 9:50 pm

    Nita, I would also suggest like Rada did to complain about the bad customer service and the inconvenience it caused you. I have no patience for bad customer service and your incident reminds me of my experience in college(in India) – the innumerable times I had to go to the college office to get some paperwork done and to bear their attitude.

    wishtobeanon, I do intend to complain. In three places. On the post site, directly to the postmastergeneral and also on the online greivance forum. Today I just wrote it all down and will summarize it for my complaint tomorrow. – Nita.

  9. March 3, 2009 9:50 pm

    This is the sad story in every govt office in the country. I never had the chance to visit them except when I bought a flat last year. Everything from registration, tax to allotment of house numbers, I had to pay bribe and wait umpteen hours, just to stare at and admire their faces. The 11-12’o clock is good morning for them and lunch time is chat time for them. Afternoon is usually accounts time for them and “customers” are pests for them. One wrong tone, you are targeted for ever and made sure that you will visit them for ever!

    How I hoped, everytime I visited them that I write the easy clerical exams and fire each one of them. I’m glad it’s all over 🙂

    Keep Blogging!

    And I just loved your comment! – Nita.

  10. March 3, 2009 9:58 pm

    Well, Nita it is relatively easy for middle class Indians like us, because we can access other alternatives or simply give in and bribe the officials. But for the poor, it is even worse, for even the very basic things they have to do dharnas, protests and such. And these officials often exploit them completely. In Bihar, people are being framed and put in jail for filing RTI requests !

    One point though, you said, “They also continue to get raises and promotions.”

    I dont think this is true, and it actually is one of the principal reasons for the bad service we get. It is extremely difficult to get raises (remember there are only 10 yearly revisions in pay) and promotions (usually need connections), as far as I understand.

    Well, their payscales have gone up I think of late, everybody’s! But yeah, I guess on an individual basis, yes, it must be difficult to get promotions. No wonder these people are so frustrated as the promotion, if and when they come will not be on merit! – Nita.

  11. Dev permalink
    March 3, 2009 11:25 pm

    Nita, Iam so sorry to read about your horrible experience. Certain things never improve..
    I can understand the reasons for such employees’ disgusting behaviour ( lack of proper education/training, overloaded with work, culture in such govt offices and misuse of power), but still nothing can ever justify such behavior. In my book, such type of behaviour is nothing short of criminal act..I wonder if these people ever realize how much agony and frustration they cause to people with their untoward acts and language..

    I am sure they realise, that is their intention! – Nita.

  12. March 3, 2009 11:38 pm

    I agree with this that in some govt. organizations, things are areally shit. But we cant generalize this view for the govt. employees. There are still govt. organizations that are still ‘lean’ and ‘working’ and make to the Fortune 500 list regularly.
    Things are not that bad…

    • March 4, 2009 8:12 am

      Really? Other than Indian Oil which government owned company lists in the Fortune 500? And Indian oil only makes it there because Oil is a monopoly industry. To put things in perspective in the Petroleum Refining industry,Indian Oil was 18th, with half the profits of Marathon Oil (17th) and 1/20th the profits of Exxon Mobil.

      To add some more perspective, Marathon Oil and Indian Oil have almost the same revenue. Chineses govt. owned Oil companies (and utilities, State Grid) came in 24 and 25. Électricité de France and USPS are the other Govt. owned companies I could find in the top 100. Please do correct me if I have missed out something.

      Having said that, Indian Oil has performed admirably, considering that it is government owned and has to dance to the whimsical tunes of the GOI; but it can do so much better if it weren’t for the bureaucracy and red tape of Indian politics and the IAS(?).

      • March 4, 2009 8:27 am

        Good data Mr. D. Doormat.
        You seemed to have done your homework on the PSUs… 🙂
        I have some support here atleast.

        • vasudev permalink
          March 4, 2009 10:56 am


          Apart from Indian Oil there were two other Oil PSUs who were figuring in the Fortune 500 list at least two years ago. They were Hindustan Petroleum & Bharat Petroleum. ONGC was there too. I have my experience in dealing with all of these and while ONGC simply seethes with corruption I have found BPCL & HPCL to be highly professional and transparent in their dealings. The GOI has done its best to kill these companies so that Reliance may thrive. Now that is a different matter as to how to make fit government employees and top-class govt companies wither and die. Perhaps Nita can address this better.

          • March 4, 2009 6:22 pm

            I know that vasudev. But since IOC was the highest among them, I only mentioned IOC. The others were well below the top 150, and the same analysis applies to them as it did with IOC.

            So, to clarify my question, what non-petroleum related industry (govt. owned, of course) appears in the Top 500? And this isn’t me trying to be condescending, it is me being really curious.

            • vasudev permalink
              March 4, 2009 10:10 pm

              there is sbi (or there was sbi in 2006…dunno whether it is there still). but i would be more interested in knowing, which home grown companies are there in the fortune 500 list from 3rd world countries other than from india? to that extent being present anywhere within the world top 500 should make me feel proud. remember…some of the top american cos in fortune 500 are also ‘indian’ driven!

              but actually fortune 500 is not a real assessment of the returns a company can give to the investor and therby an indicator of a healthy company. as you correctly pointed out earlier, the annual revenue of these cos are inflated due to both incessant demand for petro products and price. i know these are service oriented cos and their profits could at best be near about 10% (more factual would be a 6 to 7%)?

              i would be more interested in watching the growth of automotive giants like toyota/ford/gm but except for toyota both ford and gm are also in trouble currently. however, they may continue to be there at 500 top simply due to their mammoth size and global presence. indian giants may appear mere elves in comparison. still…we may feel happy with mittal, tata and ambani doing their best to make world conglomerates. who knows? the future of tomorrow is with the bric nations and 10 yrs down the line we may be very well at the top? wishful thinking!

              • March 5, 2009 7:17 am

                I checked up to 250, only later noticing that I could sort by country, hence I missed SBI.

                Third World Countries:

                Brazil – Petrobras (Refining, 63) , Banco do Brasil (Banking, 282)

                Malaysia – Petronas (Refining, 95)

                Mexico – Pemex (Mining, 42), CFE (Utilities, 408)

                Saudi Arabia – Sabic (Chemicals, 227)

                These are the list of 50% or more govt. owned companies in the Fortune 500 for the year 2008. It might be worthy of noting that Mexico has had incredible political turmoil, along with the loss of human resources to USA because of their close proximity. Also, a large number of american companies have moved base to mexico, causing the balance of cost effectiveness to swing away from mexico’s favor.

                Brazil is perhaps the closest comparison to India, but that is just my perception and I definitely could be wrong about that.

                As you mentioned, the Fortune lists are based on Gross Revenue. I do not understand why it isn’t based on profits or something more tangible as to the performance and health of a company. But I am ill-equipped to answer that question with my limited understanding (if any) of the financial world.

                Another question which I have and I hope someone out there has an answer, Why does India have so many state owned refining companies? It seems like an insufficient system to me. Why pay 2-3 CEOs, CFOs etc?

                • Vinod permalink
                  March 5, 2009 8:09 am


                  My rough guess at answering your question –

                  do not understand why it isn’t based on profits or something more tangible as to the performance and health of a company

                  The idea is to measure how ‘rich’ a company is and not how ‘efficient’ or ‘lean and mean’ it is.

                • vasudev permalink
                  March 5, 2009 1:52 pm


                  As per the world bank list of economies 2008 (valid till july 2009 it says) India has gone above the third world category (which has currently Ruwanda etc. as the inhabitants) and we are currently into the ‘developing economy’ category.

                  Even then we do not fall into the category of Brazil/Malaysia/Mexico (Upper Middle Income group i.e. $3706-$11455)) and Saudi Arabia (dunno how you dared classify SA into third world??? the entire oil economy is being controlled by this very guy who is very much responsible for our current roller-coaster rides)…now SA is classified as High Income group(i.e.$11456 or more).
                  Among the category you mentioned only India is classified as Lower Middle Income group ($936-3705).

                  Now consider the number of Fortune 500 cos from these countries:

                  Brazil: 5 (only Petrobras at 63, rest all above 200)
                  Mexico: 5 (only Pemex at 42, the rest all above 280)
                  Malaysia: only 1 (Petronas at 95)
                  S.A: only 1 (SABIC at 227)

                  And now India: 7 companies! Doesn’t matter if the best is only 116 (IOC). But if you consider own income group and our population density I think we are fairly successful…what do you say?

                  One more strange thing: all Fortune toppers in the above countries are chemical economies. Which means, world over in developing countries oil economy rules, which is quite natural since oil is the backbone for development.

                  To answer your question on why so many state run oil companies in India, with my limited knowledge I can say this much: IOC took birth from Mobil/ HPCL from the merger of two American companies in India namely Esso & Caltex and BPCL was nationalized from Burmah-Shell, a Dutch-British company. All these private operators were nationalized in 1976 by Mrs. Indira Gandhi during the emergency period, chiefly to have a better control on fuel supply to sensitive enterprises like Defence etc. it seems every successive government considered merging all these into one behemoth but somehow there were differences within the parties to do so. The BJP very nearly privatized HPC and BPC but it fizzled out at the last moment. The BJP, if it comes to power, might very well consider combining the might of IOC/HPC/BPC to counter the threat of Relaince but then…Mukesh is very good at making rules to his own taste whether it is the cong/commy/saffron…doesn’t matter…money speaks!

                  • vasudev permalink
                    March 5, 2009 1:59 pm

                    i had typed in word and pasted it here and it seems half of what i typed got gobbled-up!

                    the indian goi company ceos/cfos do not get paid much. recently i read what the ongc chairman said about his salary: his salary and his driver’s salary are almost the same! (of course, the driver’s salary is inclusive of overtime but still…so goi can afford to have as many ‘chaprasis’ nay ‘chairpersons’ to rule its fortune 500 cos since they come so very cheap (please do not compare these ceos with wall-mart!)

                    • vasudev permalink
                      March 5, 2009 2:02 pm

                      nita…it looks like your 10 deep is hungry for words!

                  • March 5, 2009 6:29 pm

                    Firstly, I apologize if SA isn’t third world. I used wikipedia for that bit of “research”.

                    I will also grant you the Oil/chemicals aspect of your argument. But then India’s only non-oil company is SBI at 408(?). From my list, Banco do Brasil and CFE are non-refinery related. (CFE is a utilities company, and that is hardly the same as being in the oil game. But then again, they might dabble in oil, of which I have no info, or time to research).

                    Again, I am not saying the Indian economy isn’t getting slightly better; what I am saying is that PSUs do not run as efficiently as they should, and their success is incidental rather than anything else.

                    As for wages: Chairman of IOC gets Total Calculated Compensation: 1,689,000. About 11 lakhs is annual compensation. Rest is stock options.


                    Same source, chairman of ONGC makes about 8 lakhs, BPCL about 14 (no info for HPCL). Now this might sound trivial, but it isn’t. I will make my argument for it at another time, when I do have time.

                    I haven’t had the time to verify this, so I apologize if it is wrong.

                    • vasudev permalink
                      March 5, 2009 10:39 pm


                      i will reply to you on the highway as this road is getting to be so narrow as to choke me!

  13. March 3, 2009 11:39 pm

    What you have written is absolutely true! I have had similar experiences before. And why blame post offices alone! Even State Bank of India is not a very good place for customers! At least I have experienced this in West Bengal.

  14. March 3, 2009 11:40 pm

    byw you could have published photo of the lady you encountered with… that would have helped us imagine the whole of it! 😀

    The lady with her back turned to us in the picture is the lady! – Nita.

  15. March 4, 2009 12:01 am

    As a part of my job, I need to interact with multiple Govt. departments. I have worked with Railways, Electricity board, Nuclear power plants etc. I find that the two categories – Central and State Govt. firms behave differently. The central Govt. ones are much better. (Except Railways etc). In fact, I have had some good professional exp. with firms like IGCAR, NPCIL, CSIR etc. State Govt ones are a total mess! I find that people (esp. in the lower levels) love the lifestyle and security provided by such a job. And if majority of our countrymen want such a think, I then people like you and me are in the minority Nita. You know that in a democracy, the minorities aren’t that important.

    Destination Infinity

  16. Prax permalink
    March 4, 2009 12:54 am

    First after all the torture why do u still want to renew the deposit?
    A. the postal dept is still stuck in the 1800s and a simple wdl slip makes u sign twice and write figures 3 times.Worse even a 100 rs wdl has to be authorized by the postmaster.
    B The postal dept is lossmaking, as the only profit maker for it is the postal mis and nsc and the way interest rates have gone up , they are facing a huge outflow … and hardly any inflow .. had mentioned it in a post
    no wonder the 2nd lady was confused as most people withdraw their deposits and park them in banks

    c the govt works in strange ways it always kills its cash cows … with its vote politics schemes
    SBI .. share below 1000 thanks to kisan karz maafi
    ONGC .and other oil psus… share below its ipo price due to heavy subsidy burden
    Post is no different , the rules are outmoded and staff is nonchalant and highly unionized and horribly selected and trained…so hello sharad rao and likes
    and the govt here – unlike in usa (where there was a whole national debate about scrapping Sunday mail due to losses) just doesn’t care about losses no wonder there is no reform. There are too many people in the postal wing and too few in the postal bank wing. The staff lack calibre, training and basic arathmatic ability and need calculators for doing 105*5 they are happy because agents give them everything readymade.

    Ur partially to blame too
    Mis is monthly inc scheme and u should have withdrawn interest monthly
    u should have chkd out the postal site for scheme details

    Thanks to kyc any transaction above 50000 invites pan no and intro in case of postal offices so blame mr C.

    Prax, I think you are right. As almost everyone wants to withdraw money she simply assumed that I wanted to withdraw it too, although I told her twice that I wanted to renew it! I think these people work without using their brains and it seems to work for them! And yeah I am going to invest the money somewhere else. – Nita.

  17. Prax permalink
    March 4, 2009 1:00 am

    oops i didnt read the last lines ….
    best of luck , try investing a bit of it in fds , gsec mfs and maybe equity

  18. March 4, 2009 1:37 am

    Sounds like this woman had some dealing with the agents…which would be the reason for making the process so hard for you that you give up and approach one of them!

    I have seen some government officers who snap because they are just plain over-worked, but of course there is no dearth of corrupt officers who run their own little business on the side.

    What makes it harder is that it is pretty much impossible for a government ‘servant’ to get fired.

  19. March 4, 2009 4:37 am

    Well, I had my own share of experience of such people and all I can say is that there is a category of people whom we call – LOSERS. They had a dream when they were growing up but due to their own incompetency, they were never able to reach it.
    Now when they see other people move ahead and lead a happy life, THAT is too much for them and they turn into sadist animals. That is what that lady was. You must pity her. She is just wasting her life when she could have done so much more…

    • openlight permalink
      March 4, 2009 5:28 pm

      IT is just not losers, it may be her nature or an arm twisting mechanism to get her pound of bucks from agents.

  20. March 4, 2009 5:32 am

    Canada Post has mostly subcontracted its work to private agents who are located in pharmacy stores for some reason. Unionised monopoly needs to be broken, also there are too few post offices and too many clients.

  21. Vinod permalink
    March 4, 2009 7:25 am

    Gosh Nita! Don’t make me revisit my thoughts of coming back to India. The unfriendliness, inefficiency and incompetency of the government bodies is a permanent feature of India in my mind. And I was just getting comfortable stacking up all that in some remote inaccessible corner of my memory. Your post was a stark reminder of all that.

    Ohh! I thought you had already made your decision! But I think you shouldn’t base it on these kinds of things. Lots of great things about India too! – Nita.

  22. Naveen permalink
    March 4, 2009 9:06 am

    I loved the post.

    Yes, Trade-Unions are a menace. Even US has a similar problem with their public school system, where teacher unions dictate the terms and influence all policy decisions. They’ve been resisting education reform in the US for quite some time. And people have no option since private schooling is expensive. In that aspect -I’m glad- private schools are atleast affordable for the middle class in India. Imagine otherwise!

  23. March 4, 2009 9:52 am

    i am amazed that you talked so calmly. Anyways that you had decided not to reinvest at the same post office the least you could have done is meet the head post-master and lodge a complaint against this lady. I am sure that you are aware of the complaint books kept at all the Govt. Offices. If you hadn’t actually written the complaint, you would have loved to see the reaction of the lady there. I am sure, you would have loved!

    I have enjoyed it myself a couple of time 😉

    • March 4, 2009 5:58 pm

      Sakhi, the only reason I didn’t do anything then was because I had to leave town that day, in fact almost immediately. Also I find that many a time the managers at the place know the employees and protect them. Its necessary to go to a higher level.

  24. Sudhir Jatar permalink
    March 4, 2009 11:26 am

    This negative attitude seeps in because the All India Service Officers (AIS) have it. Lower down they tend to look up for guidance!
    Do you realise that the AIS officers are the ones who have ruined our country in collaboration with the politicians?
    Complaining is a must. I have succeeded in getting refunds for late delivery of Speed Post. In fact, I strongly recommend to use the Speed Post because they always delay and you always get complete refund, thus getting to send your packages free of cost!

  25. March 4, 2009 12:47 pm

    many government officials are appointed either by quotas or bribes. then their’s is a permanent job. no one to question them. the govt. will never take action, they themselves being the same.

    so it gives them the sense of power over the citizens as if they are doing us a favour. they forget that they are just service providers, hired to do so just like as any of us in our own jobs.

  26. March 4, 2009 12:51 pm

    You know post office guys WANT you to take help of agents. They are hand in glove with agents as they get commission from agents. Which is why she was rude to all customers. I came to know about this long ago (when I was not blogging) from my experiences. 😦

  27. March 4, 2009 1:02 pm

    Are we allowed to take Knives inside ? I say we chop off one of their finger everytime they misbehave or do something like this.

    One can still sneak in with a Cigar Cutter.

  28. March 4, 2009 1:03 pm

    ha my wonderful country 😛

  29. openlight permalink
    March 4, 2009 1:39 pm

    This type of behavior (rude,inefficient) is mostly (yes, there are exceptions!!) are present in Government offices due to protectionism and unionized organizations which had its roots in 1950s and 60s and due to this even computerization of public sector banks was stalled / slowed for years.In comparison, private banks encashed ‘this opportunity’ of inefficiency and are having fastest growth in terms of customers (ICICI,HDFC).

    Your horrible experience stems from greed to earn extra money (from agents) and hence rude behaviour towards all to justify one’s ‘important’ position and the ‘work’ and ultimately do flattery (‘Jee sir/madam’) from others.

    Your approach was theoretical approach or to go by rule book and you should thank god that, you are not running any business in India else, you would had ‘such enlightened’ experiences quite often. In India until one works out of the rule book, one can not run business (evade duty or tax/bribe/ labour exploitation are part of business).

    Only one solution to avoid such situation is to be street-smart, appease (‘Jee sir/madam’) or bribe (agents) as, in India it is an too long drawn struggle for any individual to get justice or be heard. One more point an sting operation of the experience on TV channels would had open the lid of inefficiency (once again).

    Yes, the only thing I was thankful for was that I had a choice!! – Nita.

    • openlight permalink
      March 4, 2009 1:45 pm

      Correction —
      and ultimately have flattery

      instead of
      and ultimately do flattery

      Addition —
      Such attitude is dominant in India, but also present in other countries though minute.

    • vasudev permalink
      March 5, 2009 2:14 pm

      nita…let me give you a sincere advice. ICICI…is no better a choice as they can be very slimy in their dealings, are reputed to be non-challant and officers don’t stick there for more than 6 months! my experience with ICICI has been worst than dealing with a public sector establishment. besides, the teller lady can give you nasty looks too! later i understood that mostly they are underpaid, overworked and contracted.

      • March 5, 2009 2:23 pm

        Hmm, I have had some irritating experiences at ICICI too. Mainly I find their service is not so good. But then its not as bad as a govt. bank. Ofcourse it all depends on the frequency of one’s interactions and whether one goes to different outlets. Some outlets may have better staff. Overall if one had to look at it from an all india level, I am sure the govt. banks are really worse than the pvt. ones but even some pvt. banks are really terrible. Worse, they could close down and you could lose all your money! 🙂

        • vasudev permalink
          March 5, 2009 2:46 pm

          well…i withdrew all of mine but am stuck-up with some shares. it is a 3 in 1 deposit and at one time they told me minimum balance of 10,000 wasn’t required (that was when my stock market transactions were high). but now since all my shares have got reduced to a 1/4 of their original value i stopped transacting and suddenly they want a minimum balance of 10,000 bucks to be maintained (i believe they never told me otherwise 🙂 ). so…ah! well! i have shifted my deposits.
          but nita…recently i checked up on the rules of losing your deposits. it seems irrespective of govt or pvt banks, your deposits (in excess of 1 lakh per account holder in fd/td/etc) are insured upto 1 lakh. i.e. if someone with a deposit of 10 lakhs on his account in a particular bank (read bank and not branch) loses his money because the bank crashed, he goi is liable to pay back a max. of rs. 1 lakh only, whether it is in ICICI or SBI. therefore, it is a much better idea to split your earnings into different banks and under different names (say husband/children/self) so that your money is protected to some extent at least.

  30. March 4, 2009 6:11 pm

    Thanks all for your responses all! I have not answered all comments individually but I appreciate the unique perspective that each of you has brought here. I guess this is the kind of post that presses a button in almost everyone who has lived in India! I think if there are people with the utmost patience, its us Indians. Actually we have to be, because as openlight said we know that if we become nasty our work will not get done!

    • March 5, 2009 6:21 am

      Guess the patience part is not true…
      Example : Road sense :-). Its a big ZERO! yes , it is. realized it after shifting to singapore :)!

      • openlight permalink
        March 5, 2009 12:38 pm

        On road context changes, drivers do not have to get sanction to drive on road everyday.

        So, their frustrations, capped anger finds vent in form of road rage. Regarding driving sense it is due to slack implementation. When traffic police launches speciall drive, everyone is in order and when it closes, everyone is back to action.

  31. March 4, 2009 7:27 pm

    Seriously, that is why privatisation was supported by quite a few ppl. Why Post Office, even the Public Sector banks used to be similar untill the time HDFC and ICICI entered the arena and changed the way bank employees spoke to customers.

  32. March 4, 2009 11:23 pm

    It is good that you just collected the cheque. Better that way, The Law of Demand/supply will catch them soon. Just imagine no one wants to go to the post office? Don’t you think Govt. will have to take actions? People don’t wake up and act until they are stripped and someday I believe that will definitely happen.

  33. locutus83 permalink
    March 5, 2009 2:53 am

    I could sense your seething anger and frustration, so very vividly, as I was reading your article, Nita. Well described 🙂

    Fortunately I have never ever encountered SUCH terrible service or behaviour at any government office/institution, either in Delhi or in Bangalore (which include banks, post office, electricity bill counter, water bill counter, railway reservation counters, passport office, University Admin office) I have never had to resort to bribery too, as yet.
    Even my driver’s license test in Delhi in 2001 was a pretty decent, rigorous test which I cracked at the first attempt and got my license quickly without paying any ‘ghoos’.
    The only time I saw a bribe given in my house was for our telephone connection which (finally!) got set-up in 1996 (for which we had applied in 1990).
    (Getting a proper landline connection was such a cause of celebration in those days – I remember going to school with a big beaming smile for two weeks after our new phone got connected, and spreading my new number everywhere with great enthusiasm – seems surreal in todays world of instant mobile connections)

    I too do feel that some of these incompetent buffoons behind the counters do get some weird sense of power and sadistic satisfaction in harassing people, but I think their deep-rooted problem is more of plain LAZINESS coupled with sheer lack of SINCEREITY which unfortunately is pandemic amongst many educated private-sector professional Indians too.
    My father once told me to be mentally freeze-chilled and behaviourally extra nice and sugary sweet to such govt. officials and employees as in the end it was my precious time and my precious temper that would be wasted if I got angry and took offence at their insolent and negligent behaviour. I try to follow his advice, sometimes with very great difficulty, but as I said, such occasions are rare.

    The only instance of really caustic behaviour from a govt. official encountered by me, I remember, was a when a notorious sharp-tounged Haryanvi Admin. officer lady remarked at my innocent query regarding the filling of a column of a form at the start of my second year in college –
    “Dimaaaaag nehi hai kyaaaa?! Padhhh-likhhh nahi saktaaay?? Engineerrrring mein ‘udmishionnn’ kaise milaa?Pattaa nahi kahaan kahaan se aa jaate hain..”

  34. March 5, 2009 9:04 am

    I think they want to feel important. Or are too lethargic about their job. One thing would be because they have job security(almost). Once that goes away, am sure she will start working.

  35. March 5, 2009 4:42 pm

    I am not surprised.It is not that all the post offices are same.However, Govt offices like Rto,passport office,railways etc seem to have close connection with the broker community.This is a situation which has arisen due to non-accountability of a Govt servant.They may want to compare their salaries with private sector,never the responsibility.Do you think you would have tolerated such behaviour from a private sector set-up?NO.But like you ,we all have accepted in-effeciancy of the Govt offices and we will have to learn to live with it.Have watched a comody TV serial “OFFICE-OFFICE”? It will answer your question.

    • openlight permalink
      March 6, 2009 3:21 pm

      The problem is mainly due to no alternative ways to get the service fulfilled by public. If public is provided computer based access via web/kiosks, a lot of such stuff will vanish in thin air.

  36. Milind Kher permalink
    March 5, 2009 6:52 pm


    I will give you an insight. This happened to you not necessarily because the lady was a government servant, but because it was Pune!

    Go over some time to Chitale and see the kind of treatment/service you get. If it is shut from 1 to 4, they will summarily stop taking your order at 10 minutes to 1 even if yours is the largest order for the week.

  37. vasudev permalink
    March 5, 2009 10:57 pm


    thanks for your apologise. accepted with grace!

    to answer your questions:
    recently reliance industries (partly oil refining/exploration but mainline original business polyesters, chemicals and textiles…in line with sabic except for the fertilizers) entered into fortune 500. as well as tata steel.

    [what I am saying is that PSUs do not run as efficiently as they should, and their success is incidental rather than anything else.]

    i would beg to differ here…look at bhel/ntpc…they speak a diffrent story. psus are the training grounds for the private sector and most of the pvt sectors in india recruit these efficient psu officers and give them an unshackled world with proper compensation. even sbi is very efficient for that matter. we also forget the oil companies and the petroleum drilling companies. i followed their strike with interest and happened to read many of their comments on web sites. it seems they work under arduous conditions to do the exploration. of course this is true since as part of my work i have visited some of these onshore/offshore sites. the fertilizer cos are also no exception. only thing…none of these companies can thrive and show their real mettle if all their hardwork is converted to subsidies. recently chidambaram announced a 70,000 crore write-off of bank loans. who suffered? the banks and the indian tax payer. who gained? the rich farmers who allegedly bought honda crvs and claimed them as losses in tractor and farm equpment purchase!

    ioc chairman draws more than 11 lakhs. his ctc should be closer to 20 lakhs/year! but compare this with the ctc of any small private company in india and you would find a difference of 20 to 40 times. please understand that we are talking about the annual ctcs of companies which do an upward of rs.1,50,000 crores turnover annually! my own 23 yr old finance mba nephew who recently joined a well known finance company claims a ctc of 11 lakhs/yr (and that, i believe, isn’t too much in his line!)
    there are no stock options in govt cos. as a share holder of all these cos i am aware that when they went public in 1996, the employees were given an option of purchasing max. 400 shares at the ipo value. later of course these multiplied through rights and bonuses etc.

  38. March 6, 2009 10:02 am

    I have learned that one good weapon to use in all these cases is, to ask them to write it and give it to you.
    Couple of times this things have happened, I have asked the person behind the counter, to write, “that the re investing requires a reference and it would take two days” and both the times I tried this it has worked. These people get scared if you ask them to write and give. and then they would get the work done.

    My experience you can read here,

    • March 6, 2009 12:47 pm

      I agree with Goli on this. Asking them to give whatever sh*t they speak in writing actually works and it works both in private and govt. offices.

  39. March 6, 2009 1:48 pm

    To All,
    I had sent a written complaint to the post master general of Pune and today someone from their office called me up and said that action will be taken against the errant employee. I had also given them a link to this post and he said he had read the post and the comments!
    That felt nice! 🙂

    • vasudev permalink
      March 6, 2009 9:04 pm

      the might of your pen, nita! you used it at the right time for the right purpose.

    • March 7, 2009 4:30 am

      Oh wow!!

      Thats amazing..I din’t really think postmaster would come and read blog.
      Anyway, share what happens next with us too,ok?

  40. Chirag Chamoli permalink
    March 6, 2009 2:21 pm

    Nita, you didn’t loose it? I lost my temper once and fought very seriously with the ICICI folks and now I never bank with them.

    I agree totally about the false sense of power most of them thrive on, I mean, its stupid. and making it day hard for someone.

    And what up with this broker business, if you go to these reservation counter few people have like 20/30 ticket booked for popular destinations, with is irritating as this means now I have to go through a broker, with I hate.

    Finally, not to be a total saint, I had to leave for some work in US, and didn’t have a passport, my father knows a guy , who knew a guy and that’s it, I had my passport in a week, without any trouble. Sadly that’s how India works.

    Generally I do not lose my temper easily. At times I have to force myself to become ‘angry” so that work gets done! 🙂 In this case I was in too much of a hurry. – Nita.

  41. openlight permalink
    March 6, 2009 3:24 pm

    chirag its not just India were you can get your work done, even in US if you have good contact, one can get one’s work done easily.

    The point is that public is not harassed or is made to tolerate inefficiency and lethargy on account of unsystematic and unplanned working of government.

  42. Nisha permalink
    March 6, 2009 3:29 pm

    One of the problems in all these government offices is the way in which the employees seem to be “multitasking”. They do so many things at the same time, but never completely. They will be listening to multiple people, and at the same time they will be filling in things in a book and also listening to what another employee is telling a customer! It is all so inefficient. When I was in Singapore I visited a Singapore govt office and the Indian embassy office on the same day and the difference in their working was so stark.

    In the Singaporean office I took a token from a machine which had clear instructions on which token to take, took a seat, and went to a cubicle when my number was called. The officer listened to me with no distractions (it was so quiet I felt I should whisper), helped me fill up some of the things in my form which I wasn’t sure about and hence had left blank, he entered some things in his computer, collected the fee and gave me a printout about when to collect the final document. I was out in less than half an hour.

    Then I went to the Indian office, waited in line for my turn at the token machine, could not figure out which token to select for the service I wanted. Debated whether to go and stand in line at one of the counters to ask which token I should be taking, but finally took one from each as that seemed faster. While I was standing (as there weren’t enough seats) around for my number to be called I realized lots of other people had trouble with the token system as well. When it was their turn at the counter they were told that was not the place to be and asked to take another token. And then there were people like me who had taken multiple tokens and there were numbers for which no one turned up as they had already gone away. So the employees would call one number and when no one is in front of them in one second or so call the next number and so one, but some of them who were seated at the back will reach the counter and then there will be a group of people who will each be talking to the employee at the same time. Needless to say I was there half the day. Sigh…

  43. Dnyanesh permalink
    March 6, 2009 7:19 pm

    I will not blame only govt servants. They do not care about their job as they are protected. They don’t understand that their salaries are paid from taxes, We should remind always them about taxes.
    The main problem is that very few people pay taxes in India so few people understand that all services that we get from our govt cost something. They do not see any harm to them when they use public properties as private, stone public buses. When you drive on the road, how many people do you think, understand that their tax money was paid to the road builder to construct this road which he did not do well. They do not protest against govt agencies because they do not feel the ‘real’ pain behind that. How many people really feel this pain when they see footpaths are occupied by poor migrants or a bridge constructed with wrong design i.e. a total wastage of public funds. In my opinion, even a person earning Rs100 should be forced to pay taxes (or should be made aware of that), a wadawalla (using footpath), a cloth merchant (using govt parking area for his business) etc, they all must be forced to pay taxes for using govt properties. That may generate some sense of public responsibility in every citizen.

  44. Sudhir Jatar permalink
    March 6, 2009 10:16 pm

    My latest experience is with another speed post letter I sent to a GoI office in Delhi on 28 Feb. They did not deliver it until yesterday (5 Mar) after which I called the local Speed Post Business Development (!) executive. Late evening, he called to say that they have delivered the article and could not do so earlier because the office was closed.
    I had a good laugh because GoI offices might not work but they certainly do not close on working days! I have now complained and hope to get the entire amount refunded.

  45. Ravi permalink
    March 7, 2009 4:53 am


    Post offices and Banks (SBI) are one of those places I hate to go in India. You go there and wait for couple of hours only to see that the employ put you on hold to satisfy his ego .. lol … that was seriously sick ..

  46. Dnyanesh permalink
    March 7, 2009 6:39 pm

    1. You can always find people chatting and discussing personal matters during business hours in govt offices. They leave window immediately once clock shows 5PM.
    2. In govt offices systems are always made difficult to discourage public and encourage agents. RTO is the best example. I had my test recently, where I heard one agent telling this (truth) with great pride, “Test is difficult for people who do not come to us. Cops will test them thoroughly”.
    3. Govt projects are, most of the times, given to companies owned directly/indirectly by ruling party politicians or opposition leader with ‘understanding’ There is no quality control on service provided by such companies. Common man always suffers. Indian mind always adapts, it never resists. The main reason is ‘total loss of faith in police and judiciary’. I think police and judiciary ‘department’ needs urgent reforms to restore faith in the ‘system’ by common man. But is anybody listening? Do we have any choice in this election year? Can we see 3 times more police officers on the road? Can we see 4 times more judges? Can a common man atleast get ‘taarikh’ quickly to see some improvement in the system? No one is listening!

  47. vasudev permalink
    March 7, 2009 8:51 pm

    while driving through the goregoan oberoi mall road today, after visitng the mall, i was surprised to find a traffic police pick-up van ‘steal’ a car parked on the side of a very wide road. there was an agitated oberoi mall officer arguing with the traffic constable. curious i stopped my car and joined-in. i asked the oberoi mall guy…but isn’t this your private road? he said…no sir…this is a public road but we do the maintenance. these guys lift the cars and we get the blame. we lose goodwill.

    so i asked…’why so’? he replied: Sir…if you would kindly notice, not even a single board or post of the traffic department is there on this road which states: ‘no parking’ or ‘park on this side on even dates’ etc. despite that these guys lift the vehicles and we have highly agitated customers who think we are the culprits.

    by this time the robber traffic police constable and his pack of maharashtra govt sponsored thieves had left the scene. but then, as i reversed back to oberoi i found a very angry couple who reported their car ‘stolen’.

    who will take maharashtra govt to jail?

    very unfortunately, although i carried with me a very much 5mp endowed LG Viewty, my lateral brain only questioned me later: ‘fool, why didn’t you snap a few shots of the attempted robbery and send it across to Nita?’…well…

  48. March 8, 2009 5:30 pm

    Hey Nita,

    Is there any particular action you have taken after this incident. Or just this particular post only. Have you made any complaints?

    From your (Why I blog) page I came to know that you love to make a difference, so whats different that you have done here apart from the above post.

    Will that woman be penalised or will we come to know about another group of Nita’s who experience the same.

    • March 8, 2009 8:37 pm

      Yes ram, I have complained on the online site for government grievances, on the post site and also directly to the office of the post master general. I have already got a response via email AND telephone from the post master general’s office in Pune and he has said that strict action will be taken. But when I said I would make a difference, I didn’t mean it in this sense, I meant it by writing. The written word my friend is a very powerful thing. I am not an activist (but will always complain for my own stuff) but a writer. I make a difference by writing. Everyone cannot be an activist. A government servant by doing an honest job is making a difference, a person running his business honestly is making a difference, a writer being true to his heart and writing about issue is making a difference. I hope this answers your question.

  49. Vinod permalink
    March 8, 2009 6:45 pm

    She has already done something by writing about it and bringing it to the forefront of our consciousness. By doing that repeatedly, we make sure that we don’t let our problems slide into our subconsciousness and someday someplace someone will say “Enough is enough” and do something about it. We need to make sure that we don’t start getting comfortable with the state of affairs and expressing our frustrations in words is a starting point.

    • March 8, 2009 8:40 pm

      Thanks Vinod. As a writer, that is what I hope I can do. By making people aware and perhaps make them feel something and perhaps not to ignore it if it happens to them. Imagine if all of us complain…! Then I guess that post office will soon have to close down! 🙂

  50. sunil kumar permalink
    March 15, 2009 3:57 pm

    mam… frankly… no offense… in case of mine what I do usually is… The way a person behave with me the same way I treat him…(usually in these govt. offices)…

    It’s not new mam… I have faced these kind of persons lot of times… what I do… is just to remind his/her position over there… and I remind him what is the meaning a customer is to them… (of course it happens in a little heat conversation…) Then they come to their ‘oukat’… and I get my work done in a very few minutes…

    With these people you can’t show Gandhigiri…

  51. March 15, 2009 6:07 pm

    Nicely said Nita. Kudo’s for the complaint against the woman. I agree that you make a difference by writing , but why dont people like you try to develop our nation. Certainly people like you can make and bring a difference to our locality,city and of course country too, but I dont know why you hate or deny entering into politics. Just wanted to share my personal feelings(i would say rather than comments).

    • sunil kumar permalink
      March 16, 2009 9:29 am

      very true… every bodies in this parley wants the same… but the moment she (Nita mam) enters into politics… our so called LEADERS (scoundrels) will push her down by any means…

      • March 16, 2009 10:48 am

        sunil, you have aptly said what I wanted to say to Ram. I will not survive in politics for a day! It’s not just ruthlessness that I lack, but also the ability to “play” politics. I can’t do it in my own social circle, leave alone on the political stage which requires a great deal of canniness! But I do believe that there are some really good people in politics. A general ability+ honesty+ability to play politics.

  52. vasudev permalink
    March 15, 2009 7:04 pm

    it is great! the postal department was quick to act.

  53. R.Sajan permalink
    March 23, 2009 4:06 pm

    The Clerk species are going away in India, anyway. But we hear a lot about bureaucratic mindlessness from all over the Globe. The USSR collapsed because of the malady.
    My experience with new-gen banks has been that they are worse than at least some PSBs, being staffed by unqualified and highly immature boys and girls.
    In British times, the bureaucracy was answerable at least to the colonists. Nehru created a licence-permit-quota raj that made corruption easier and the bureaucracy masters, answerable to none.
    Anyone with a monthly salary thinks that he is not a ‘servant’, but a master of the public. This has been a feudalist perversion with Indians till recently; now, it is a capitalist weirdness.


  1. Unpleasant experiences with Govt. official? Blog about it. | Muses of Murari

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