We Will Walk Extra Mile To Make BSNL Competitive, Ravi Shankar Prasad Says
Signage for BSNL is displayed atop the company’s head office in the Churchgate area of Mumbai, India. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

We Will Walk Extra Mile To Make BSNL Competitive, Ravi Shankar Prasad Says

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Efforts are on to revive the public sector telecom companies, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. and Mahanagar Telecom Nigam Ltd. and make them professional, the government told the Rajya Sabha on Thursday while noting that the voluntary retirement scheme for existing employees is receiving an encouraging response.

Communications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said a total of 79,000 employees of BSNL and 14,000 out of total 20,000 employees of MTNL have applied for VRS.

"BSNL and MTNL are strategic assets for the country and in case of earthquake, cyclone or defence purposes they come forward proactively to help citizens. Therefore, we have decided to revive them," he told the Rajya Sabha.

"We want to revive them and make them professional," he said.

Replying to supplementaries, the minister said the Union Cabinet had in its meeting on Oct. 23, 2019, approved a BSNL revival plan, which includes measures to reduce the employee cost. "Accordingly, BSNL has launched 'BSNL Voluntary Retirement Scheme-2019' on Nov. 4, 2019 which is open till Dec. 3, 2019," he said in his written reply.

According to Prasad, BSNL's employee cost was 75.06 percent of its revenue and 87.15 percent for MTNL. That compares with 2.95 percent for Bharti Airtel Ltd., 5.59 percent for Vodafone Idea Ltd. and 4.27 percent for Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd.

On whether the government will pay dues of contractual employees in BSNL/MTNL, the minister said "as far as contract employees are concerned, they are employees of the contractor and the obligation to pay salaries is that of the contractor."

To a question on the ministry pruning 30 percent of contract staff in BSNL to address financial problems, Prasad said BSNL outsources specific works to contractors who engage contract workers for the said works.

In view of the strained financial condition, BSNL decided to implement many austerity measures, including reducing expenditure for different outsourcing works, he said. These include works for housekeeping, security and certain repair and maintenance works.

On revising the age for VRS, Prasad said "though the government has taken decision, the option is open". "My stress is to revive BSNL/MTNL and efforts are on to revive them first," he said.

The minister also said 4G services have also been given to BSNL to make them competent. "We will walk an extra mile to make BSNL competitive".

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