How long will BSNL survive?

Thrissur:  How long can the public sector undertaking Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) survive?  That question is looming large among employees,  as they watch from close quarters Centre's moves apparently to strangulate BSNL to death - which has started affecting its employees too.

Following the suspension of Leave Travel Allowance (LTA) for the employees,  now restrictions have also been brought in the  medical treatment provision.   The burden resulting from the failure of the company to pay banks the the amounts due to them,  including amounts deducted from employees' pay for bank loans and GPF,  is now falling on the employees' shoulders.   

So far the monopoly telecom service provider for Railways was BSNL,  but it has been eliminated from that role too.   In comes Reliance Jio,  to 'serve' Railways.

When the NDA government's love for Reliance is breaking all boundaries,  it is almost certain that BSNL with a work force of nearly 1.8 lacs cannot survive for long.   The new 'management theory' is that the company need not have this strong a work force,  and can live with much fewer along the lines of the private telecom providers.   The recommendation in its preliminary report by Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Ahmedabad,  which was commissioned for a study is that 35,000 employees have to be offered  Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) on urgent basis.    BSNL management has asked the government to grant the amount required for that package or approve taking a bank loan.

The calculation is that through VRS,  BSNL can cut expenditure by Rs 13,000 crore.  Last year the firm gained Rs 2,500 crore through cost cutting.  That was the sum of benefits for 625 employees,  which will be implemented this year as well.    There is a grouse among employees that when BSNL send the amount to balance credit of employees after paying the employees' their take-home pay,  the firm diverts the funds to other heads.  Thus the amounts due to be paid under heads of  General Provident Fund (GPF),  bank loan,  repayments to societies,  House Nuiding Allowance (HBA), LIC premium,  Income Tax etc are not paid in time by the Company.   The incentive for excellence in performance has also been suspended.   With this,  not only are the employees not able to withdraw money from GPF,   the compound interest charge on bank also falls on the shoulders of the staff.

BSNL has not yet been able to bid for 4-G spectrum,   whereas all private providers are thriving by offering 4G service to customers.  Thus BSNL is incapacitated to compete with the private sector.   And there is no approval for BSNL to raise  the funds for spectrum via bank loans or by mortgaging its assets.  There are also moves to lower the retirement age from 60 to 58.   Employees are scared that at this rate,  even their salary may get  blocked.

A co-ordinating body of different employee organizations in BSNL  has decided to hold family meet and sit-in at district level on 15 February.   And a call has been given also for a three-day strike from 18 Feb.

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