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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The journey of Gangajal from the river to your doorstep via Indian postal service

NEW DELHI: 'Please remove your shoes before entering the room,' comes the unusual request from a senior official at the Rail Mail Service (RMS) Bhawan near Delhi's Kashmere Gate. The room in question was unremarkable until recently, when it became a reliquary for bottled Ganga. The river's water has seemingly sanctified an otherwise utilitarian space whose contents have thus far been courier packages and daily mail. 

Just weeks after Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad promised to have Ganga water delivered to people's doorsteps via the Indian postal service, the scheme has become a hit not just in the national capital, but also in other states like Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh. It is the first end-to-end product operation handled by India Post. 

Since the day of its inception in the first week of July , the RMS Bhawan has dispatched over 49,000 bottles to 22 postal circles in the country . "It's amazing how the bottles are gone within minutes. Kolkata, for one, saw around 20 bottles sold out in no time," beams the official. Ironically , the maximum demand is from states like Uttarakhand and West Bengal, which have the Ganga flowing through. 

The Bhawan gets a daily supply of Gangajal. The amount varies, says the official, but the flow never stops. 

"It is a very systematic procedure. Mussoorie Express gets the water from the Ganga in Rishikesh, and at times from Gangotri. Around 7-8 people from the Rishikesh post office collect the water directly from the river. They send it to us in cans with a capacity of 20 litres each. Overnight, the train reaches New Delhi. Our men go and collect it early morning and bring it to RMS Bhawan," adds the official. 

Once it reaches RMS Bhawan, the water is treated in two rooms, cleared of sediment, and then packaged. "You can drink it of course, it is holy after all. But we want to make sure that there are no unwanted particles, like soil or little stones, in it. It comes straight from the river which is why we filter it properly," says the official. There are two rules to be followed in these two rooms: no shoes and no bare hands. 

He adds that the Bhawan gets very little water from Gangotri, but a regular supply from Rishikesh has made the scheme a success; 43,000 of the 49,000 bottles sold till date come from there. The bottles with water from Rishikesh cost Rs 15 and Rs 22 for 200 ml and 500 ml respectively. The ones from Gangotri are priced at Rs 25 and Rs 35 respectively . Online, both sell at Rs 101 and Rs 151 respectively. For now, there's not much profit in it, just piety . "If one calculates the cost of filtering and packaging each bottle, there would probably be a profit of margin of Re 1," adds the official. 

The counter at the Sansad Marg head post office in Delhi has two bottles on display, to assure customers they're at the right place. Senior postmaster Roop Chand says there are 12 post offices in Delhi, including this one, that sell the bottles. 

"I just sold five 500 ml bottles," says a smiling Rajkumari, as she opens her hardbound register to jot down details of the day's sales. She is soon joined by Renu Chhabra, who handles the online sale of the holy water and guides us to a tiny room where three women are watching the website for online orders. "We can't call distribution of Gangajal part of ecommerce. It's just making sure everyone gets a part of our culture at their doorsteps," says postmaster Chand. 

Many devout families are grateful for the scheme. "I used to go to Rishikesh to get Gangajal. Now that it's readily available, it saves me the trip," says Rajesh from New Delhi. 

At the launch of the scheme, minister Prasad had said it was going to feed the cultural needs of Indians. If the numbers so far are anything to go by , he was probably right.

Source:-The Economic Times

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