Whatever language the address is written in, a correct PIN code will go a long way in helping the letter reach the nearest post office.

This Independence day the postal PIN codes celebrate their 46th birthdayWikipedia
news History Wednesday, August 15, 2018 - 09:56

Imagine sending a letter or a big box of sweets to your loved one in Kota, Karnataka – but it ends up in Kota, Rajasthan. India has a lot of towns and villages with the same name, despite being in different states. For example -- Puthucode in Palakkad district in Kerala and Puthukode in Malappuram district in Kerala; Bilaspur in Himachal Pradesh and Bilaspur in Chattisgarh; Aathur in Mayiladuthurai and Aathur in Coimbatore...

So how do people who deliver our mail distinguish them? Through Postal Index Number (PIN) codes. And August 15, 2018, will mark 46 years since the Department of Posts introduced PIN codes in India, on the recommendation of Shriram Bhikaji Velankar, who was an additional secretary in the Ministry of Communications in 1972.

Earlier, letters were marked with a ‘via’ to indicate a specific destination. For example, if letters were sent to Puthucode in Palakkad district, it would be marked to Puthucode, Kannambra (via). But as the postal network expanded and the number of areas serviceable by the postal department increased, this created confusion among people living in places that have the same names. Delayed delivery of letters, and letters delivered to wrong recipients became common as a result. To address these issues, the postal department introduced the PIN code system, which would be a unique identification number for the destination.

Under this concept, India was divided into eight zones, and six-digit PIN codes were allotted to each zone.

The first digit of the code indicates the state in which the destination is located. For instance, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Lakshadweep are in the same zone and have the digit 6 as their unique number. The second and third digits of the PIN codes indicate the sub-division and the district of the recipient respectively. The last three digits of the PIN code indicates the unique identification number of the destination post office.

The army postal service was given PIN codes starting with ‘9’.

The head post office in New Delhi started functioning as the first ever post office with PIN codes in the country.

Reminiscing about the introduction of PIN codes, N Hariharan, a former employee in the Postal Department says, “India has a lot of places with same names. In Tamil Nadu, names like Mettur, Aathur are very common and can be found in more than 10 different places. PIN codes help postmen deliver the letters to the right person at the shortest time. Whatever language the address is written in, a correct PIN code will go a long way in helping the letter reach the nearest post office.”

“In those days, Chennai Central was Madras 01, Anna Salai was Madras 02, Park Town was Madras 03, Mylapore was Madras 04 and Triplicane was Madras 05 zone. Chennai had many zones like this and were given similar labels. This was the practice followed in big cities like Mumbai and Kolkata to sort letters and parcels,” he said.

India has the biggest postal network in the world and has around 1.5 lakh post offices across the country. Although the postal department has diversified the services it provides to people, the introduction of PIN codes will remain revolutionary for the way it simplified the delivery of letters.

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