Why BSNL Employees are on strike from 18.2.2019 to 20.9.2019

BSNL was formed on 1.10.2000 by transferring the telecom and telegraph services maintained by Telecom Department. It is a 100% Government Company. The motto behind its formation is to provide world class telecom services at affordable rates. It is the only telecom company fulfilling the social obligations of the Government for providing telecom services to commercially unviable rural, backward, hilly, forest areas and areas affected by extremists. It is also entrusted with the job of providing optic cable network to military for diverting the spectrum allotted earlier to it for localisation for civilian purposes and several other works by the Government.

At the time of its formation the Group of Ministers “has decided that for discharging obligations in regard to rural telephony or any other uneconomic services, in accordance with any Government directive for the implementation of NTP 1999, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited would be duly compensated. Realizing that it would be a potent instrument in the hands of Government for achieving its social objectives, in regard to spread of telecommunication network in the country,GoM has further decided that under no circumstances it would allow Bharat Sanchar Nigam to become non-viable as it has to be kept always in strong and healthy condition”.

But the compensation for providing the loss making rural land line services was gradually reduced and finally abolished, thus imposing losses on BSNL.

The Government, by raising various unwarranted objections has prevented BSNL from procuring the equipment required for the expansion of its mobile network, for a long time, from 2007 to 2012.

In 2010 the Government has allocated 3G spectrum and BWA spectrum to BSNL including for the circles where it will not be commercially viable, and collected a huge amount of Rs 18500 crore thus finishing most of its cash reserves.

These are the factors intentionally created by the Government for imposing losses on BSNL.

At the same time the Government has been encouraging the private telecom operators in various ways by bending or mending rules and also violating the rules.

The license fee to be paid by the private operators as per the tender was reduced in 1999 by the care taker Government of Vajpayee violating all fairness. It resulted in a loss of Rs 43000 crore to the exchequer as per the reply given by the Government in the Parliament and it was known as “Telecom Scam”.

As per the Justice Shivraj Patil Commission, several irregularities have taken place in allocating spectrum to the private operators. The irregularities in allocating 2G spectrum to the private companies was known to all as 2G scam.

Due to all these anti-BSNL policies, BSNL has started posting losses from 2009-10 onwards.

But the struggles waged unitedly by the employees finally compelled the Government to allow BSNL for procuring the equipment. Since 2012 the procurement of equipment has started and the management and employees have worked together for the upliftment of BSNL. As a result, BSNL recorded operational profit of Rs 672 crores for the year 2014-15 and Rs 3854 crores for the year 2015-16. Its loss of Rs 8234 crore in 2014-15 was reduced to Rs 4859 crore in 2015-16 and to Rs 4793 crores in 2016-17.

But due to the entry of Reliance Jio with predatory pricing, all other telecom companies including Vodaphone Idea, Airtel have started posting losses. As a part of this phenomenon, the losses of BSNL have increased to Rs 7992 crores in 2017-18. Revenue has fallen down drastically since in the competition with Reliance Jio the tariffs were drastically reduced.

The acquiring of 4G spectrum by Reliance Jio was done in an unethical manner. Infotel Company with a net worth of RS 2 crore has participated in the 4G auction and acquired it for all Circles in the country costing around Rs 12000 crore. Neither the DoT nor the Minister has questioned how a Company with a net worth of mere 2 crores could acquire the spectrum with such a high cost. The Infotel Company was acquired by Reliance Jio immediately.

Further the original license to Reliance Jio was only for internet services. But it was allowed license for voice calls also. Further the Reliance Jio was allowed by TRAI to utilise predatory pricing until it acquires 30% of the customers. This is highly irregular and recently the TDSAT (Telecom Disputes Settlement Authority) has struck off this order of the TRAI. By this time the Reliance Jio has already acquired 23% of the market, and all the remaining telecom companies Vodaphone Idea, Airtel and BSNL have bled due to this predatory pricing. The TRAI has appealed against this order of TDSAT in the Supreme Court.

The Private Operators were given concessions by the present Government to help them for repaying their debt to the banks by extending the spectrum charge payment instalments from 10 years to 16 years and the Government is examining the issue of extending further concessions to them.

But it has not given any such concession to BSNL. It has been delaying the allotment of 4G spectrum to BSNL. It has denied providing Letter of Confidence to BSNL for taking loans from national banks to tide over the present crisis. The land and assets of DoT have to be transferred to BSNL as per the orders issued by the Government at the time of formation of BSNL. But this process remains to be done.

The Government is not agreeing to the “Land Management Policy” proposed by BSNL for monetising the land to get revenue of Rs 7000to 10000 crores per year. The Government is thinking of closing/privatising the BSNL and reducing the employees number in large scale. The management is unable to pay full salary to the employees and as a result it is providing funds only to the extent of take home pay. Though in the salary bill the recovery of bank loans, GPF , Insurance etc are shown, the management is unable to pay these recoveries to the concerned institutes due to lack of sufficient cash flow. The management has even requested the Unions to agree for deferring the February 2019 salary. But the Unions did not agree.

It is further submitted that if BSNL is finished as per these policies, the country and people will face difficulties in telecom sector. In the absence of a Public Sector Telecom Operator, the private telecom operators will collaborate for increasing telecom tariffs imposing burdens on the people.

The goal of self reliance in telecom equipment manufacture will suffer due to the fact that the Government cannot compel the private operators to procure domestically manufactured equipment. At present 80% of the equipment utilised for expanding telecom networks is imported at a cost of around Rs 50000 crores every year.

Importing telecom equipment to the extent of 80% is a cause for anxiety regarding the security of our communications since the foreign manufacture can embed software codes in the equipment and identifying it will be like searching for a needle in a hay stock.

Due to these privatisation policies, India is now placed at 134th place among 176 countries in the Information and communications Development Index published for the year 2017 by the International Telecom Union, an organization affiliated to UNO.

In the name of these intentionally created losses, the Government has been denying wage revision, pension revision etc to BSNL employees, which was due from 1.1.2017.

Under these circumstances, the BSNL employees including non-executives and executives are going on strike for three days from 18.2.2019 onwards, on the following demands:

Ensure financial viability of BSNL as per the decisions taken by the Group of Ministers at the time of formation of BSNL. Issue Letter of Comfort for BSNL for acquiring required loans from Banks. Expeditiously fill up all vacant posts of BSNL Board of Directors.
Approve the land management policy proposed by BSNL. Expeditiously complete the mutation and the process of transferring of all assets to BSNL, as per the Cabinet decision taken on the eve of the formation of BSNL.
Allot 4G spectrum to BSNL as proposed by BSNL management.
Scrap BSNL’s outsourcing for the operation and maintenance of its mobile towers.
Implementation of 3rd Pay Revision with 15% fitment.
Implement assurance of the Hon’ble Minister for communications for delinking pension revision from pay revision. Revise pension of BSNL retirees w.e.f 1.1.2017
Payment of pension contribution by BSNL as per the government rule.
Settlement of the left out issues of 2nd Pay Revision Committee.

AUAB Jindabad BSNL Jindabad