Sunday, March 17, 2013

The 'Flying Swan' that keeps the Indian soldier connected to his family

Dear Comrades,

KOLKATA: In this day of internet and smartphones, there are some who still wait eagerly for that inland letter or envelope from home, marked with their names, unit details and C/O 56 or 99 APO.

These are the Indian Army jawans posted at remote outposts, where in some cases, the only means of communication are air-drops or mule trains.

While the role of combat soldier involves a certain degree of glamour, few are aware of the units that help in keeping him in a state of readyness.

One such unit is the Army Postal Service (APS) which celebrated its 42nd Raising Day on Friday. The APS, through its two Central Base Post Offices (CBPOs) — one of which is in Kolkata — plays the very
important role of keeping the jawan connected to his family in a remote village, several thousand miles away. It is that one letter that can make the day for a soldier braving all odds in sub-zero temperatures on a feature along the Line of Actual Control in Arunachal Pradesh or Sikkim.

56 and 99 APO are the two CBPOs operating out of New Delhi and Kolkata.

Between the two, the entire postal needs of the armed forces and the few other ancillary paramilitary organisations get taken care of.

Subsequent to the victory over Japan by Allied forces in August 1945, the 'Indian Army Postal Service' as it was then known, began the process of disbanding all its existing 137 Field Post offices (FPOs).

56 FPO, which was raised in Secunderabad on June 30, 1941, was the last FPO awaiting disbandment.
Having just returned from Iwakuni, the British Commonwealth Occupation Force Air Base in Japan, it was however, left unscathed. Redesignated on October 24, 1947, with a new coded security address "C/O 56 APO", it began as the new base sorting office in New Delhi to serve the postal needs of troops at Punjab and J&K, as a consequence of the Pakistani raiders' invasion on October 20, 1947.

Meanwhile, "C/O 99 APO" came into being as the coded security address for all formations in the eastern theatre including all the eight north-eastern states, West Bengal and the Andaman group of islands with the raising of 2 CBPO on April 1, 1964. It addresses all its postal operations through its network of nearly 130 FPOs. Since then, this unit which adopted the 'flying swan' — the mythical carrier of messages in several Indian epics, including the Mahabharata — as its emblem with the motto "Mel Milap" has kept the soldier in the frontline connected to his family.

Contrary to perceptions that cellular connectivity and internet must be denting the mail volume in present times, statistics indicate that it has in fact risen steadily.Brigadier (APS) at Eastern Command, B Chandrasekhar, ascribes this phenomenon to the rise in the volume of official and business mail.
Amplifying further, Col Akhilesh Pandey, Commandant No 2 CBPO says, "The mails from various service providers such as financial institutions including banks, insurance and investment companies, towards their business transactions are on the rise. The services also extensively use the 'Scheduled Despatch Services' (SDS) for despatch of all their secure official mail."

Times of India
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