BSNL Employee Unions Call Nationwide Hunger Strike For Delay In Revival Package
Like other telecom companies in India, BSNL too has been facing stress since the entry of Reliance Jio in the telecom market. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

BSNL Employee Unions Call Nationwide Hunger Strike For Delay In Revival Package

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Employee unions of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. have called for a nationwide hunger strike on Monday to protest the delay in execution of the Rs 69,000-crore revival package announced by the government last year.

"The All Unions and Associations of BSNL (AUAB) is organising a countrywide hunger strike on Feb. 24, 2020. This hunger strike is being organised to demand expeditious implementation of the Union Cabinet's revival package in respect of BSNL, as well as to demand settlement of the grievances of the employees," AUAB said in a statement.

In October 2019, the central government approved for BSNL and MTNL a Rs 68,751-crore revival package, which included allocation of 4G spectrum to the state-run firms, voluntary retirement scheme for employees, as well as their merger.

AUAB said the salient features of the revival package are the allotment of 4G spectrum, a Rs 15,000-crore fundraising by way of issuance of long-term bonds, monetisation of assets and implementation of VRS.

"Out of these, only VRS has been implemented, using which 78,569 BSNL employees have been sent home. It is extremely disturbing to note that, even after the lapse of nearly four months, 4G spectrum has not been allotted to BSNL," AUAB said in the statement.

The government has not yet issued the sovereign guarantee to BSNL, to enable it to raise Rs 8,500 crore via long-term bonds, it added.

"The process of monetisation of BSNL's assets is also moving at a snail's pace. The Supreme Court of India's judgment, with regards to the calculation of the AGR, has caused uncertainties in the telecom sector, due to which banks are also unwilling to extend the much-needed loans to BSNL," the statement said.

The BSNL employees' body said that due to the delay in the allotment of 4G spectrum and also due to the non-availability of funds, it is understood that BSNL's 4G service is not likely to be launched before the end of 2020.

"This delay is much against the spirit of the Union Cabinet, in approving the revival package for BSNL. The attention of the Minister of Communications (Ravi Shankar Prasad) has already been drawn to the need to provide BSNL with the much-needed working capital. However, nothing has happened," the statement said.

AUAB said that despite the relief package, employees are not getting salary on time and the wages of the contract workers have not been paid for the past 10 months.

"Under the circumstances, AUAB organised country-wide lunch-hour demonstrations on Feb. 11, 2020. In continuation of this, hunger strikes are being organised throughout the country on Feb. 24 to urge the Department of Telecommunications and the BSNL management to take expeditious actions," AUAB said.

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