Post Office
Post Office [Representational Image]Creative Commons/Michael Pieracci

A postman, who was the officiating postmaster of a post office in an Odisha village, was suspended after villagers complained that thousands of letters, some dating back 14 years, were lying undelivered in the post office.

Postal delivery agent Jagannnath Puhan, who officiated as the postmaster for more than a decade at Odhanga branch post office in Bhadrak distirct, was suspended after a preliminary inquiry found him guilty of negligence and dereliction of duty.

The undelivered torn, soggy and termite-infested letters were spotted by school children in an old building from where the post office functioned before it was shifted a few days back.

As infuriated villagers gathered at the spot and started searching for their mail, the postal department immediately suspended Puhan.

Superintendent of Bhadrak postal circle Sarbeswar Mishra said the erring postman was suspended for gross dereliction of duty as well as breach of trust.

A villager said he found old admit cards for Staff Selection Commission and the Union Public Service Commission examinations among the letters.

Officials say they are counting the number of letters Puhan didn't deliver in the last 14 years.

"Only 1500 letters have been salvaged intact in two days and of the 6000 letters he didn't deliver, more than half are in a bad state and can't be delivered," says Mishra.

Most of the undelivered mail is from Life Insurance Corporation and other state-owned and private insurance companies, mails to members of Parliament, postcards and official mails.

Puhan joined as a postal delivery agent in 1979 and was given the additional charge of postmaster in February 2004 when the postmaster retired. The postal department stopped new appointments and this meant Puhan continued to hold both posts till March 2014 when a new post master was appointed. For 10 years, he not only shared the burden of working as the post master but also had to deliver mail every day on his cycle to villages within 3km radius of the post office.

The new postmaster left in July 2016 and Puhan again had to shoulder the twin responsibilities of heading the post office and delivering mail till July 2017 when a regular postmaster was appointed.

"Puhan acted in a smart way. He delivered all the important mail like money order, registered letters, Aadhaar cards, speed posts etc because records are maintained for these while he used to chuck away ordinary mail," said a senior postal official.

He added that there was no official complaint so they were in the dark about what was going on in the post office.

Puhan admitted to throwing away several letters in a room of the old post office, saying he was not able to walk properly and was not in a state to deliver mail.