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Opens Second Post Office Branch in Antarctica at Bharati Research Station


The Department of Posts has recently inaugurated a second branch of the post office at the Bharati research station in Antarctica, marking a significant development after almost four decades. Letters intended for Antarctica will now bear a new experimental PIN code, MH-1718, which is customary for a new branch. Currently, Maitri and Bharati are the two active research stations operated by India in Antarctica. This initiative by the Department of Posts will facilitate better communication and connectivity for the researchers and personnel stationed in Antarctica, enhancing the logistical and operational support for India’s Antarctic missions.


GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Significance of India’s Post Office in Antarctica
  2. Antarctic Treaty System Overview
  3. India’s Antarctic Programme Overview

Significance of India’s Post Office in Antarctica

Historical Context

  • In 1984, India inaugurated its inaugural post office in Antarctica at Dakshin Gangotri, India’s first research station on the continent. However, due to submergence in ice in 1988-89, this station was decommissioned.

Establishment of the New Post Office

  • Subsequently, on 26th January 1990, India set up another post office at the Maitri research station in Antarctica.

Unique Postal Administration

  • Even though the Maitri and Bharati research bases are approximately 3,000 km apart, both fall under the postal jurisdiction of the Goa postal division in India.
  • Correspondence intended for the Antarctic post office is first directed to the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR) in Goa.
  • Letters are then transported to Antarctica by a researcher from the NCPOR, ‘cancelled’ (stamped to prevent reuse), and subsequently returned to the senders via regular mail.

Strategic and Symbolic Importance

  • The presence of an Indian post office in Antarctica holds strategic significance.
  • While traditionally Indian post offices operate within Indian territory, the Antarctic post office serves as a symbolic assertion of India’s presence on the continent.
  • This initiative underscores India’s dedication to scientific exploration and environmental conservation.

Alignment with Antarctic Treaty Principles

  • The Antarctic Treaty, which neutralizes territorial claims, prohibits military activities and nuclear testing, and emphasizes scientific research, is complemented by the establishment of the Indian post office in this neutral territory.

Antarctic Treaty System Overview

Nature and Purpose

  • The Antarctic Treaty System encompasses a comprehensive set of arrangements designed to govern relations among states with interests in Antarctica.
  • Its primary objective is to guarantee, in the interests of all humankind, that Antarctica remains exclusively dedicated to peaceful activities and remains free from international disputes or conflicts.
  • Representing a global achievement, the treaty has stood as a testament to international cooperation for over five decades.

Legal Framework

  • The agreements within the Antarctic Treaty System are legally binding and have been tailored to the unique geographical, environmental, and political characteristics of Antarctica.
  • This system forms a robust international governance framework, ensuring effective management and conservation of the Antarctic region.

Evolution and Current Challenges

  • While the Antarctic Treaty has effectively addressed various challenges over the years, the context in the 2020s differs significantly from the 1950s.
  • Technological advancements and the impacts of climate change have made Antarctica more accessible, leading to increased interest and presence from more nations beyond the original 12 signatories.
  • As global resources, particularly oil, become scarcer, there is growing speculation and concern regarding nations’ intentions and interests in Antarctic resources, including fisheries and minerals.

Future Considerations

  • Given the shifting landscape and the increasing number of countries with substantial interests in Antarctica, it is imperative for all treaty signatories, especially those with significant stakes in the continent, to prioritize the future of the Antarctic Treaty and its evolving challenges.

India’s Antarctic Programme Overview

National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCPOR)

  • The National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCPOR) oversees India’s Antarctic Programme.
  • Established in 1998, NCPOR has been pivotal in advancing India’s scientific research and exploration in the Antarctic region.

Historical Background

  • India’s engagement with Antarctica began in 1981 with its first scientific expedition to the continent.
Research Stations
  • Dakshin Gangotri:
    • Established as India’s inaugural scientific research base in Antarctica.
    • Unfortunately, it was submerged in ice during the 1988-89 season and subsequently decommissioned.
  • Maitri:
    • India’s second permanent research station in Antarctica.
    • Located in the Schirmacher Oasis, a rocky mountainous region.
    • Maitri is surrounded by Lake Priyadarshini, a freshwater lake constructed to support the station.
  • Bharti:
    • India’s latest research station, operational since 2012.
    • Designed to provide a safe working environment for researchers despite Antarctica’s harsh conditions.
    • Located approximately 3000 km east of Maitri, Bharti serves as India’s primary dedicated research facility.
Research Vessel: Sagar Nidhi
  • Commissioned in 2008 by the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT).
  • Sagar Nidhi is an ice-class vessel capable of navigating through ice up to 40 cm thick.
  • This pioneering vessel has been utilized for various research activities, including the launch and retrieval of remotely operable vehicles (ROV), deep-sea nodule mining systems, and tsunami studies.

-Source: The Hindu

May 2024