BSNL had a robust growth, both in revenue, as well in profits till 2007 and was on the march to be the leader in telecom sector, both in landline as well as mobile section. By cancelling the procurement of 45 million mobile equipments in 2007 and 95 million later, the government maintained that BSNL is stunted and blocked it from expanding the services. In addition, all the assurances on financial viability by the government at the time of corporatisation, like grant of ADC, Reimbursement of Licence Fee, subsidy from USO Fund etc, were either withdrawn or reduced drastically making BSNL unviable.
The company revenue, which used to be around Rs. 40,000 crore has come down to about Rs. 27,000 crore now. Profit has made way for loss for the last three years. This situation has resulted mainly due to the anti-PSU policy of the government and the inefficient management. The casual attitude of the employees also has a share in the present situation.
The government has been continuously adopting a pro-private policy succumbing to the pressures of the corporates more than the interests of BSNL, its own company. There has been no equal field between BSNL and the PSUs at any stage. This situation has been capitalised by the corporates which has resulted in big scams and evasion of taxes and big loss to the company like in 2G scam.
The Unions of non-executives and executives have initiated a programme called “Subscriber Delight Year” for improving the services and also the financial viability. This has resulted in a favourable change, though nominal. The management has agreed to procure mobile equipment, cables, telephone instruments, broadband modems etc., the non-availability of which has adversely affected development, expansion and service. The procurement process has started which will improve the services. Seminars, meetings etc. are being organised by the unions to educate and train the workers for improving the services.
About 10,000 to 15,000 employees are retiring every year and no new recruitments are being done. As a result, the staff has been reduced from about 3,50,000 in 2000 to 2,74,000 in 2012. This naturally has adversely affected the services. Instead of regular workers, contract workers are being engaged. There are about one lakh casual and contract workers who are inhumanly exploited, by denying minimum wage, social security measures etc.
To bring back BSNL to its glorious past, the government has to implement its assurance on the financial viability of the company; the management has to improve its functioning and the workers have to work with more commitment and determination to improve the services. With its more than 30,000 offices, exchanges all over the country, the largest network of infrastructure including cables, more than 50,000 skilled engineers and two lakh committed workers and support from the public, there is no reason why BSNL could not expand, develop and improve the services. The telecom services in the country could not be handed over to the profit-motivated corporates who will squeeze the public once BSNL and MTNL become non-existent.
(About the Contributor: V.A.N. Namboodiri is President of the BSNL Employees Union, the recognised union in the telecom PSU. He is the President of BSNL Casual and Contract Workers Federation as also the convener of Joint Action Committee of BSNL Unions /Associations of Non-Executives and Executives)
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