Joint Forum of BSNL Unions Hold Nationwide Human Chain Protest, Demand Speedy Implementation of 4G Services, Wage Revision Talks
A human chain protest was held in front of the Circle office in Patna by the Joint Forum of non-executive unions and associations on November 28. (Courtesy: bsnleu.in)
The joint forum of non-executive unions and associations in the BSNL held human chains across the country on November 28, demanding permission for the organisation to launch 4G and 5G services immediately. The demands on settlement of wage revision and new promotion policy were also raised during the protest. The restoration of the old pension scheme (OPS) and halting outsourcing of work remain major demands of the BSNL employees' unions and associations.
The protesting workers and employees attached to the non-executive unions and associations blamed the pro-private and anti-BSNL policies of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led union government for the destruction of the organisation, which enjoyed massive patronage from different sections of the population.
Speaking to Newsclick, P Raju, Tamil Nadu circle secretary of the BSNL Employees Union (BSNLEU), said, “Most of the private telecom companies have been given the licence for 4G and 5G services. But, the government organisation has been waiting for the licence for years.”
The BSNL management and the union government have been making tall claims on the launch of 4G in April 2023 by fast-tracking the installation of equipment, which was announced to be implemented in April 2023. The unions claim that the introduction of 4G may get further delayed since the installation has not progressed as claimed.
“The tender for manufacturing equipment for 4G was awarded to the consortium led by TCS for about Rs 15,000 crore. But there is a delay in providing the equipment required,” Raju added.
The delay in launching 4G services is affecting the BSNL badly, resulting in a loss of customers and, subsequently, revenue. The private mobile service providers benefit from the government's policy decisions, leading to an increase in their revenue by increasing the cost of usage.
A Babu Radhakrishnan, the circle president of BSNLEU, told NewsClick, “The organisation has lost 22 lakh customers in August 2023 alone, while the private players are gaining customers. The three private mobile service providers have also increased the cost for internet services since a good number of people have shifted to work from home.”
Of the three private telecom companies in the country, Vodafone-Idea also lost a considerable customer base, while Reliance-Jio and Airtel have increased their numbers.
The wage revision for the employees and staff of the BSNL has been pending since 2017, and though a committee was formed for discussion, the priority remains trivial. The loss incurred by the organisation is being cited by the management for the delay, while the unions accuse the policies of the union government for the loss itself.
“From a very strong position, BSNL has fallen down in terms of customer base for both mobile and broadband connection, as well as revenue. Though the former telecom minister of the same union government refrained from blaming the employees for the loss, no progress has been made in the talks,” Radhakrishnan added.
Despite all the odds, the BSNL remains the go-to organisation for different state and union governments during natural calamities and emergencies. The most recent example is the trapped workers in Uttarkashi, who were provided with a landline connection for them to communicate with their families during their ordeal, which extended for two weeks.
“Whenever there is an emergency, the government depends on BSNL, but the organisation is denied even the basic requirements to provide better services, while the employees continue to suffer with prolonged wage revision talks,” Radhakrishnan added.
Like several other employees, workers, and officers, those attached to BSNL also demand the restoration of OPS. The right-wing workers union, the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), has recently voiced its demand for bringing back OPS, citing dissent among workers, even as other central trade unions have been pressing the demand for several years.
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