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Communication Minister assures to in look the matter of ITS Repatriation
BSNL and MTNL employees are in a struggle for the last one month to ensure that there is equal justice for the ITS officers as also the executive and non-executive employees in both the above PSUs.

THE MAHANAGAR Telephones Nigam Limited (MTNL) and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) were formed as Central Public Enterprises bifurcating the telecom services from the Department of Telecom (DOT). While about 3.5 lakh non-executives and executives from DOT were absorbed in these PSUs at the initial stage itself, the Indian Telecom Service (ITS) Officers, about 1600, were allowed to work on deputation for a few years.

The maximum period of such deputation is only for 5 years as per the Government of India orders and regulations. Although the government gave four chances for the ITS to get absorbed in BSNL and MTNL, except a few, almost all opted for DOT only, and have been continuing in the BSNL & MTNL illegally and irregularly on deputation.

This continued deputation has resulted in an identity crisis amongst the ITS, resulting in alienation with the BSNL-MTNL and its workers causing irreparable damage to the growth of the PSUs. Both the PSUs which were profitable in their initial stages started becoming loss-making, due to the negligent attitude of the top management, who completely belong to the ITS, except a few Group A officers from the finance stream, since their future and career prospects were different.

Of course, the major responsibility was the anti-PSU policy of the government, but some differences could have been made, if the top management had stood their ground defending BSNL-MTNL. The sustained pressure of the Unions/Associations in these companies to expand, develop and grow could not materialise effectively due to the lack-lustre performance of the top management.

While the Government gave all chances for the ITS to get absorbed in BSNL, they did not agree for absorption, but opted for DOT/Government so as to get both the service of the government as well as the financial benefit from the BSNL-MTNL. The issue came to the Delhi High Court and the Court gave direction to the DOT/BSNL Management to get the non-optees to BSNL-MTNL repatriated to DOT not later than 30th September 2012.

Now, the BSNL management has petitioned the court to extend the period for many months, in order to complete the repatriation. The reason for delay in repatriation is being justified that the replacement s are not available and that more time is required for recruitment of new officers of the grade. This argument is not valid since the companies had sufficient time earlier after the first five years, but did not take any action for recruitment.

The BSNL-MTNL managements as well as DOT is moving for a cabinet note for granting perpetual deputation of the ITS to BSNL and MTNL, instead of implementing the repatriation and recruitment of new officers. This will create dual service conditions, pay and other financial status for ITS on the one hand and all other employees on the other. This will be disastrous as has been seen in the merger of Air-India and Indian Airlines, in which difference service conditions and wages existed.

The workers are not prepared to have such dual service conditions and wages. If the ITS are granted ‘Perpetual Deputation’, the same condition should be allowed for all other employees to remove the discrimination by repatriating them to DOT/Government. The Forum of BSNL & MTNL Unions/ Associations have, therefore, resorted to agitational programmes as neither the government nor the BSNL management has agreed to the justified demand.

The BSNL-MTNL workers are on one week Hunger Strike from 29th October 2012 for one week. Hunger Strike is being organised at the Corporate Office/circle/district levels numbering more than 450 centres throughout the country. Raj Bhawan / Collectorate Marches were organised in these places on 30th October and memorandum addressed to the Prime Minister submitted to the Governors and Collectors for being forwarded to the Government. The Forum of Unions/Associations has also called for a Parliament March on 22nd November 2012 on these issues.

It is in this context that the Forum leaders met Shri Kapil Sibal, Minister Communications, on 30th October and presented their demands. The entire situation was explained to the Minister, who assured the delegation that he will fully examine the issue and take decision.

The decision of the Minister will have far reaching impact on the future of these companies, as already stated above.

(About the Contributor: V.A.N. Namboodiri is convener of a forum of BSNL and MTNL Unions/Associations. He is also the President of the BSNL Employees Union, the recognised union in the telecom PSU.)

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