Postal services are struggling as letters exchanged have come down to half in the last five years. However, the government built the Dak Bhaban—the first-ever headquarters of the Postal Directorate. But, would it help service providers adapt to modern postal facilities?
Suhas Shangker Chowdhury stays signed in to his email account most of the time to handle more than 50 mails a day. Even at home, he needs to keep himself updated on new emails.
During his hectic office hours, this officer of a government agency hardly gets time to notice the changes in the surrounding Agargaon area, a sprawling landscape where the headquarters of government departments are being relocated. Last month, while sipping a cup of tea at the top floor of his office, Suhash noticed a red skyscraper that looked like a giant letterbox.
The cylindrical building with a superdome roof also has a black 'bill' shaped like a letter drop slot. The sight of the structure, representing a pillar letterbox, made Suhas nostalgic. Nearly ten years back, he sent his last hand-written letter to someone dear to him.
It is the newly built Dak Bhaban, the headquarters of the Postal Directorate, waiting to be launched officially.
Staring at this iconic thematic building, Suhas murmured, "What a wonderful feat of architecture!"
The ground and first floors, each having 12,500 square feet of space, make-up the base platform of the building. The circular cornices of the remaining floors are red. Actually, the façade is covered by curtains made of red aluminum composite panel sheets.
Md Reajul Islam, Director (Stamps) of the Postal Directorate said, "The exterior glass wall is transparent. The windows have roller blinds that are red on the outside and white on the inside, so that from outside the building looks red, but on the inside there is no irritating red shade."
This is going to be the first exclusive headquarters of the Postal Directorate. The agency so far has been housed at a shared congested space at the three-storey General Post Office in Gulistan.
Project officials say that the government approved the development project proposal for Dak Bhaban in 2015. Construction consultancy firm Shahidullah and Associates made the blueprints while the firm's architect Kaushik Biswas made the design. In October 2016, Kusholi Nirmata Limited started construction of the building.
With the cost of Tk 90 crore, Dak Bhaban is going to be the first exclusive headquarters of the Postal Directorate. The agency so far has been housed at a shared congested space at the three-storey General Post Office in Gulistan.
In 2017, the initial plan for building an eight-storey Dak Bhaban was revised to add six more floors. The cost of the project was estimated at Tk91. 90 crore.
But finally, the construction of the building was completed at a cost of Tk90 crore.
BM Shahabuddin, the project manager of Kusholi Nirmata Limited, said that every component of the construction has been done with different contractors.
"The building is now ready for handover", he told The Business Standard on September 15.
The entrance of the 0.75-acre Dak Bhaban complex has two sentry sheds– also shaped like letterboxes. Sculptor Mrinal Haque has created an artificial fountain at the center of the courtyard.
Mrinal has also created 12 murals of commemorative stamps portraying the country's founding father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, four national leaders, seven martyred war heroes and the Liberation War of 1971.
Reajul said that Dak Bhaban has a daycare centre, a 200-capacity hall room, and a cafeteria on the ground and first floors. There is a library and a postal museum on the second floor. The remaining 11 floors will have rooms for the Directorate General, Directors and their staff. Mobile banking services, call centers and central servers will be housed on the 13th floor.
Evidently, the snail-paced postal service is finding it difficult to compete with electronic mailing. Official data reveals that letters being sent through the government's post office system is dwindling. According to the Postal Directorate's Annual Report 2017-18, around 4.17 million letters were exchanged in the fiscal year, down from around 8.51 million in 2012-13.
The report also says that the directorate counted Tk 8.41 billion revenue expenditures against Tk 4.48 billion revenue earning in the 2017-18 fiscal year. Of the expenditures, Tk 5.46 billion was spent on salaries and pension of postal staff.
Now that the postal service has run into a deficit, will the new state of the art accommodation help the service providers adapt to modern postal facilities?
"Working at Dak Bhaban will be energising. It will help motivate our staff, and will convince them that the century-old postal facility is not extinct", Reajul said.