Thursday, July 21, 2011

Scinde Dawk was a very old postal system of runners that served the Indus Valley of Sindh, an area of present-day Pakistan. The term also refers to the first postage stamps in Asia, the forerunners of the adhesive stamps used throughout India, Burma, the Straits Settlements and other areas controlled by the British East India Company. The name derives from the words “Scinde”, the British spelling of the name of the province of Sindh, and “Dawk”, the anglicised spelling of the Hindustani word “Dak” or Post. The red ½ anna Scinde Dawk was issued first, on July 1, 1852. The red sealing wax wafer stamps, embossed with a backing of paper, were so fragile that they easily cracked and disintegrated. Since they were often used as a seal on a letter, many were destroyed when the letter was opened. The next attempt was a colourless embossing on whitish or bluish paper. Light blue lines were added between the stamps in the second printing. This version had its own problems. It was very difficult for the postal clerks to see at night by candlelight, especially when they were attached to white envelopes. Finally, the blue stamps, made by simultaneous printing and embossing, were tried. These stamps are found in several shades of blue and they too are found with blue dividing lines between the stamps. This last version was issued shortly before the Scinde Dawk were withdrawn from use on September 30, 1854, and replaced by the East India Company stamps. 

The Dawk, or Dak, was a very old postal system of runners. The runners were paid according to their distance of travel and the weight of their letters. This was a local Indus Valley system, inefficient and inadequate for the military and commercial needs of the British East India Company after their conquest of Sindh.

Reform of the Postal System
Sir Henry Bartle Edward Frere (1815 - 1884) of the East India Company became the Chief Commissioner of Sindh in 1850.Following the English example set by Rowland Hill, Frere improved upon the postal system of Sindh by introducing a cheap and uniform rate for postage, independent of distance travelled. In 1851 the runners were replaced with an efficient system using horses and camels, following routes through Scinde province, generally along the valley of the Indus river. The mail was carried quickly and efficiently, connecting government offices and post offices from Karachi through Kotri and Hyderabad up to Sukkur in the north.

The Stamps
Stamps were required for the prepayment of postage, a basic feature of the new system. These stamps bore the Merchants' Mark of the British East India Company in a design embossed on wafers of red sealing wax impressed on paper. Because they cracked and disintegrated, they were soon replaced by a colourless design embossed on white paper which was hard to see in a dim light. The last stamps were a blue embossing on white paper.All of these had a value of only one-half anna each, but today they rank among the rare classics of philately.

Forgeries of these rare stamps are plentiful. The most easily detected fakes are not embossed on paper. Other crude fakes show a misalignment of the second letter 'A' of ANNA with the 'K' of DAWK; and in other fakes the '1/2' is not separated from the central heartshaped emblem.

Later Developments
After the Scinde Dawk, Colonel Forbes of the Calcutta Mint came up with an essay for a postage stamp depicting a lion and palm tree. This, and several other essays, were never printed because Forbes could not ensure an adequate supply with the limited machinery at hand. Soon after, new, lithographed stamps printed by the Survey Office appeared in several denominations valid for use throughout British India as part of sweeping postal reforms.
The British East India Company's posts are important, because the "Great Company" held sway over so much of the world's commerce in those days, extending across Asia and East Africa. It had its own armies, coinage and postal service; constructed railways and public works; and acted like an imperial force long before the Empire was established.

Pakistan Post issued two commemorative postage stamps on Centenary of Scinde Dawk with the denominations of 3 anna and 12 anna on August 14, 1952.

Frere Hall, Karachi
When going towards Clifton from Sadar, just opposite to the US Consulate building is a colonial era structure beautifully nested among high rising palm trees. The building is called Frere Hall after Sir Bartle Frere who was the Chief Commissioner of Scinde (present day Sind province of Pakistan). Beside his many achievements, he is also considered the pioneer of postal services in this part of the world as far back as in 1852. His postal service was known as “Dawk”. His newly introduced stamps became the first in Asia and the first round stamps of the world.

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