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New Government to Take up BSNL, MTNL Revival Plans: Say Sources

Workers from certain circles including Eastern Uttar Pradesh are yet to receive their wages for last one year.

The Finance Ministry has asked the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to re-examine the revival proposals for the telecom firms BSNL and MTNL and submit these to the new government that will take office after the ongoing general elections, a senior official source said on Tuesday.

This implies, according to the source, that there is no immediate move, in the next few months till a new government settles down, to revive both central public sector enterprises (CPSEs). 

Last month, the DoT had floated a draft cabinet note for consultation among ministries on the revival of BSNL and MTNL. 

In response, the Finance Ministry has now asked the DoT to rework the proposals, indicating both the steps and the financial outgo involved and submit these to the new government.

The two key issues in the revival proposal are the voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) and allocation of 4G spectrum. 

Apart from this, more than one lakh contract workers in Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) have not been paid their wages for the last four months.

Workers from the certain circles including Eastern Uttar Pradesh are yet to receive their wages for last one year.

“BSNL management is saying that lack of money is the reason for delay in payment,” said VAN Namboodiri of BSNL Casual and Contract Workers Federation. The officers and permanent employees are getting their salaries on time except for the month of February.

In February this year, for the first time in 18 years of BSNL, the company had not been able to pay the salaries on time.

Read More: How the Centre is Dismantling BSNL

Though the Union Cabinet had assured at the time of the formation that BSNL would take all steps to safeguard its financial viability, whenever the company has been in financial crisis, it has been not allowed to take loans. “Banks are ready to give loan to BSNL. But, to obtain the loan, BSNL has to get permission from the Centre and it has not given the permission till now,” explained Namboodiri.

All the other operators in Indian Telecom Industry have huge financial debts. The Vodafone-idea has a debt of Rs 1.2 lakh crore and Airtel has a debt of Rs 1.13 lakh crore. The debt of JIO is about Rs 2 lakh crore. Whereas the BSNL has debt of only Rs. 13,900 crore. “Why was only BSNL denied the permission to take loans?” Swapan Chakraborty of BSNLEU had told NewsClick earlier.

Raising this matter, the workers have demonstrated in front of the corporate office in Delhi; they have conducted a number of marches and protests. But nothing has changed so far.

Read More: Centre’s Move to Introduce VRS in BSNL A Step Towards Privatisation, Says Union

On the other hand, BSNL has decided to merge its various circles in a bid to increase efficiency. The board hopes that the move will help the ailing company. “There are certain circles which are not benefiting the company. The board has approved the merger of circles in a bid to increase the efficiency,” the Deccan Herald reported.

At present, BSNL has 24 circles and three training institutes. It is reported that the circles that are slated for merging are Punjab and Haryana, Eastern Uttar Pradesh and Western Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

Interestingly, these are the circles which had been bifurcated earlier, after formation of new states, except for Eastern UP and Western UP. “It is not known whether the issue has been discussed with the unions/associations of BSNL. By merging these circles, will the efficiency go up? Or is it due to the unavailability of senior officers to hold the posts and reluctance to post promoted officials?” questioned Namboothiri.

Read More: BSNL Contract Workers from Eastern UP Haven’t Received Salaries for a Year

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