BSNL for Better Service to the Nation

V.A.N.Namboodiri, Convener, Forum of BSNL Unions/Associations

BSNL is a PSU fully owned by the Central Government, providing telecom services all over India, except in the metropolitan cities of Delhi and Mumbai, which is under another PSU, MTNL. BSNL was formed on 1st October 2000 as part of the neo-liberal policy of the government, corporatizing from the Department of Telecom (DoT), which was providing the telecom/telegraph services in the country.

The telecommunications in India have a long history spanning more than one and half century. On 5th November 1850, the first telegram was sent from Calcutta to Diamond Harbour, a distance of 50 miles, by the British authorities thus inaugurating the telegraph services in India. Initially, it was only for government’s use, but was extended for use of the people by 1855. It is reported that the telegraph services were effectively used by British for suppressing the First War of Independence, which they termed as ‘Sepoy Mutiny’.

The telegraph services expanded quickly and were the fastest communication system available for many decades. By 1930s, telephone was invented, and reached India also. Telephone Exchanges were started in big cities like Calcutta, Bombay, Madras and Delhi. The growth of telephones was spectacular. Almost all major cities and towns were covered by telephone services within one or two decades. Both the telegraphs and telephones continued side by side along with the limited signals service in the Postal side. Till 1985, it was the Posts & Telegraphs Department which provided the telegraph and telephone services. In both services, new technologies were introduced one after another which not only improved the services, but also made it faster and faster, which was the requirement of the government and the people. In 1985, Department of Telecommunications was formed, bifurcating the then existing P&T Department, breaking the uninterrupted connection of more than one century.

The new liberalization policy of the Central Government introduced under Narasimha Rao Government in the 1990s, had its effect on the telecom services also. In 1994-95, the private companies were given license for providing mobile services. It was for the first time that any private company was allowed to function in the telecom sector in India. (Of course, the brief period in the 1930s is not forgotten when certain private companies provided telephone services in the major cities which were all taken over by Government later). This was a major deviation from the Indian Telegraph Act of 1886 and the existing policy of the government to keep this crucial sector as government monopoly.

The next step was corporatizing the telecom service through formation of Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited (VSNL – Overseas Communications), Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL – telephone services in Delhi and Bombay) and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL – telecom services in all parts of the country including telegraph services in Delhi and Bombay). VSNL was formed first, MTNL second and the last BSNL on 1st October 2000. Corporatisation was the first step towards privatisation, as already have seen in the case of VSNL, which has been handed over to Tatas and is now a private company, Tata Communications.

Growth of BSNL
Despite gross discrimination by the government, BSNL started improving from start and was growing convincingly in the newly introduced mobile services till 2007, when the government arbitrarily cancelled the 45.5 million mobile tender, which was intended to tap the fast growing mobile market. Further tenders were also scrapped on one or other untenable pleas. These were all done to favour the private companies to exploit the situation and expand in a big way without competition from the telecom PSUs. Even the minimum procurement of equipment to BSNL could be ensured only after the workers went on strike on 11 July 2007 under the leadership of the Joint Forum of BSNL Unions / Associations.

In the landline and broad band services, BSNL is having the biggest market share, but in the fast growing mobiles, it is having about 12-13 % only. While in the first 9 years, BSNL posted good profits, it has been losses for the last 4 years. However, this year, the losses have come down marginally, which is a good sign.

People want BSNL services, but due to various reasons, anti-PSU policy of the government and inefficiency of the management among others, it has not been possible to provide services as required. The mind-set of the workers has also to be changed for providing a better and complaint-less service.

The Forum of BSNL Unions / Associations, the umbrella organization of the BSNL Unions/Associations, has been making continuous and sustained efforts to get the anti-PSU policy changed, pressurising the management for procuring equipment etc and motivating the workers for providing a better and courteous service. Through the “Customer Delight Year” campaign, it has been able to get the service better, though in a limited way.

The Government has formed a Committee of Group of Ministers (GoM) for “Revival of BSNL and MTNL” with the Finance Minister P.Chidambaram as Chairman with other five members including Communications Minister Kapil Sibal. The intention of the government is well known. Its main agenda will be disinvestment and VRS. But the workers cannot sit idle. This challenge has got to be converted in to an opportunity for saving and strengthening BSNL and for providing a better service to the Nation. The past glory of the telecom services has to be restored.

This is the immediate challenge. BSNL workers are prepared to accept the challenge and change the situation for the better. The workers will have to make maximum efforts for a better service to the people. BSNL stands for Better Service.

As stated above, the Government has appointed a Group of Ministers (GoM) for ‘Revival of BSNL & MTNL’. In addition to the Chairman Finance Minister P.Chidambaram, the other members of the committee are Dy. Chairman Planning Commission Dr.Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Communications Minister Kapil Sibal, Commerce& Industry Minister, Anand Sharma, Minister for Information % Broadcasting Manish Tiwari and Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances & Pension V.Narayanasamy. The constitution with these heavy weight ministers shows that high priority has been given to the issue.

Of course, telecom has been an important sector for the government. Hence it was always under the direct control of the government as a Department, first P&T and later Department of Telecommunications. The Cabinet Ministers who looked after the Ministry include celebrities like Rafi Ahmad Kidwai, Jagjivan Ram, I.K.Gujral, H.N.Bahuguna, C.M.Stephen, Shankar Dayal Sharma, K.P.Unnikrishnan, Pramod Mahajan, Sushama Swaraj and others. The growth of telecom infrastructure and services has always been a priority with the government, since it is closely connected with the growth of the country.

But that priority has been changed now, after the introduction of the neo-liberal policy for the last two decades. Now the priority is to allow the private players to maximise their profits at the cost of the PSU telecom companies and the country. The naked support to the MNCs and private companies can be seen in each and every decision taken by the government and the discrimination against BSNL & MTNL.

Hence the priority for the GoM on ‘Revival of BSNL & MTNL’ will naturally focus on further growth of the private companies. The GoM is certain to be in favour of disinvestment and VRS both of which BSNL Employees Union and the Forum has been able to stop through united struggles. It may also decide on some insignificant support to BSNL & MTNL with harsh conditions.

The workers cannot allow such decisions which will gradually put a lid on the existence of BSNL, as the government has now decided in the case of telegram services which were closed unceremoniously from 15th July 2013, despite strong protest from the unions.

It is why the Forum of BSNL Unions/Associations have given a detailed Memorandum to the GoM with effective and practical suggestions, which if implemented, will completely change the present scenario and will strengthen BSNL. The Forum has already organized a National Convention participated by hundreds of workers on 3rd August 2013 at New Delhi which has adopted a historic Declaration, in which effective suggestions/ recommendations/demands are given for strengthening of BSNL and for a Better Service to the people. It requires maximum support from the people and hence had to be given wide publicity. The workers have to come forward to implement the programmes and restore the great tradition of the Telecom services.

Memorandum to the Group of Ministers on ‘Revival of BSNL’
One of the main points raised in the Memorandum by the Forum of BSNL Unions/Associations to the Group of Ministers on Revival of BSNL & MTNL is that the government should take a basic and firm position that BSNL is a fully government owned Public Sector Unit (PSU) providing service all over India (except in Delhi and Mumbai where another PSU, MTNL, provides service) including lakhs of villages and rural areas which are loss-making and where the private companies shy to enter and requires total support from the Government. BSNL is suffering huge losses to provide and maintain service in the nook and corner of the country as part of the universal service obligation of the government. It is the same with providing services in the border states like J&K, North-East etc. More than 70% of landlines, which cater to a large number of ordinary people, are still with BSNL. It is the incumbent operator with a tradition of more than 160 years of excellent service in telegraph/telephone which helped the nation to develop its communication, infrastructure etc. with sincerity, dedication and determination. All these aspects, the government has to recognise and accept that BSNL is the nation’s requirement and has to be supported in all ways and always.

Instead of giving priority and most favoured status to BSNL, unfortunately the government is helping and favouring the private telcos. Only a few examples will suffice. Private companies were given mobile licence in 1995-96, while BSNL got licence after six years in 2002 only, which gave a lot of advantage to the private telcos. When the 3G and BWA spectrum was allotted, BSNL was compelled to shell out Rs. 18,500 crore for pan India service, while the private companies paid about Rs.5,000 to 7,000 crores only for the same and by cartelising, they are also providing services all over the country. While Private companies were allotted spectrum which can be utilised for new advanced technologies, BSNL was allotted spectrum of lesser standard. While the government says of equal field, in fact there is no equal field anywhere. This kind of discrimination against BSNL should be put an end to.

The government should issue directions to all the central/state governments, PSUs and govt. assisted organisations to take connections from BSNL only as they have given directions in the case of Air India. As far as BSNL is considered, on the insistence of Unions, many agreements were made with PSUs only, like loans from PSU banks, group insurance scheme with LIC etc. In the same way, PSUs should take telephone connections from BSNL.

The following are some of the issues on which immediate action has to be taken by the Government/BSNL Management.

Compensation for Village and Rural Connections
‘India lives in villages’. Though the towns/cities are continuously growing, still the majority people are living in the country side. But unfortunately, the villages and rural areas are ignored, whether it is in the case of development, education, industry or any kind of improvement. Communication services are not different. Though the private companies hold maximum market share in the total telecom services, their contribution, whether in land line or mobiles, are insignificant in the remote areas. It is BSNL which connects the lakhs of villages and rural areas. It is the same with the border areas like J&K, Andaman & Nicobar, Lakshadweep, North East states, Naxal affected areas etc. The private companies are least interested in providing services in these areas, since there is hardly any profit. BSNL is providing maximum telecom services with huge losses and risk. Each land line provided and maintained will result in significant loss to the company.

BSNL is not providing these connections with profit motive. It is the bounden duty of the government to provide communications in all parts of the country, and as a fully government owned company, BSNL has got the responsibility to implement the same. The Post Office is doing service similarly. While the loss of the India Post, it being a government department, is borne by the government, being a fully government owned company, BSNL has got to be compensated by liberal assistance. This has been assured at the time of formation of BSNL, in 2000. BSNL was to be paid Access Deficit Charge (ADC) collected from the private telecom operators so that BSNL, incumbent operator, will be compensated. About Rs. 3,000 to Rs. 4,000 crore was being paid through ADC in the initial stage, but the government discontinued it after a few years, going back from its assurance. There was no justification for such an arbitrary decision. After much persuasion by the Forum of BSNL Unions / Associations as also BSNL, the TRAI proposed Rs. 1500 crore to be paid in 2012-13 and Rs.1,250 in 2013-14 to BSNL from the USO Fund in lieu of ADC. But so far only Rs. 1,500 crore for 2012-13 is paid and the amount for 2013-14 is yet to be paid. BSNL is in dire necessity for funds for procurement of equipment etc. and the release of this amount will be a timely help. The Forum has already demanded the DOT / USOF for early action in the matter. DOT should take immediate action.

USO Fund to support to BSNL, Reimbursement of License Fee
At the time of corporatisation, it was assured that BSNL will be financially supported by the Government. The Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) came in to force from 2002. It collects the Universal Service Levy (USL) from service providers at a defined percentage of Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) as a component of Licence Fee. The collections of USL are credited to the Consolidated Fund of India and allocations of funds to USOF are done by approval of the Parliament. Since BSNL alone was providing landline services in rural and remote areas, it alone was eligible for the support from USOF. But later, by amending the Indian Telegraph Act 1886, the eligibility for USOF was extended to the private telecom companies. While the collections through USL were substantial, only a small portion of the same was paid to BSNL. The balance amount was kept with USOF. So far, till 2010-11, BSNL was granted Rs. 11,639.62 crore, despite the fact that it has got a lot of funds available with it. Further, BSNL is losing much more than that amount paid to it for providing the loss making connections and maintaining them.

Another assurance was that BSNL will have to pay the License Fee like other companies, but the amount will be returned. Reimbursement was given to BSNL, but after a few years it was also stopped.

Thus, the assurances on the three issues, payment of ADC to BSNL, liberal support from USOF and refund of License Fee have either been withdrawn or stopped. If these were given, most probably, the company would not have posted loss.

The Forum of BSNL Unions / Associations have demanded the GoM on ‘Revival of BSNL & MTNL’ that all these assurances promised and later withdrawn/reduced may be restored which will help BSNL in improving its financial position.

Refund of Licence Fee
At the time of corporatisation, Govt. assured that BSNL will have to pay Licence Fee, but the same will be reimbursed to the latter. What was the basis on which this reimbursement was decided by the government?

As per procedure, it may be necessary that Licence should be taken for providing the telecom services, after private companies also were allowed to provide services. As long as Govt. /DOT alone was the telecom service provider, it was not necessary. The licence is intended to regulate and control the services by the private operators, since the government has its mechanism for its departments.

But why the government takes Licence Fee from its own companies? BSNL is not working to amass wealth or maximise profit, but is functioning for implementing the policy decisions of the government in the telecom sector for universal service as also for security of the country and its people. How can such a PSU be equated with the private telecom companies whose main aim is to increase their profit, evade the taxes as much as possible and even cheat the government and also public through fraudulent methods. A large number of cases have already been exposed. Whether it is non-payment of huge income tax by Vodafone, cheating in providing roaming services without licence for the particular circle or providing SLD / ISD services by the Reliance, Idea and Airtel or cheating by converting the SED/ISD/STD calls in to local calls for avoiding higher taxes – it has been a continued process of avoiding tax and licence fee. Whether one such instance can be shown on the part of BSNL or for that matter MTNL, the two government companies?

Due to certain policy decisions, these PSUs have been formed. If they had continued as government services, there would not have any necessity to pay the Licence Fee. The correct policy should be that the government telecom company need not pay Licence Fee, tax etc. When there is profit, dividend can be paid and for the first six-seven years when there was profit, the dividend and taxes have also been paid.

BSNL is in loss now for the last four years. It was the cancellation of the mobile equipment and non-procurement of other equipment also that was the main reason for the present situation.

Taking all the above issues in to consideration, no Licence Fee should be charged from the BSNL and MTNL, at least till the present crisis is over. The government can stop the system of Licence Fee for BSNL and MTNL or at least waive the same till the financial crisis is over.

The Forum of BSNL Unions / Associations have demanded the cancellation of Licence Fee for BSNL and it wants the GoM of Revival of BSNL to take a positive decision in this matter.

Refund of Spectrum charges
In the case of allotment of spectrum, the government discriminated BSNL in more than one way.

1. The 3G Spectrum was allotted to private companies through auction circle by circle, which helped them to select the circle of their choice and bid. Thus they reduced the charges to be paid to the government. In the case of BSNL, it was not allowed to bid for any circle, but was compelled to pay charges for all the circles at the highest bid in each circle.
2. Though the private companies like Airtel, Reliance, Vodafone etc. did bid for only few circles each, by an agreement/understanding they started providing 3G services in all the circles, without licence. Thus by paying a small amount for spectrum, they provided services through out the country. BSNL had to pay for all circles.
3. In the case of BWA spectrum, private companies were allotted better spectrum which was suitable for latest and future technologies like Long Term Evolution(LTE), TDD etc. But in the case of BSNL a lower spectrum was allotted which was not suited to LTE, TDD and other advanced technologies. This discrimination compelled BSNL to surrender BWA spectrum, except in four circles. BSNL has paid a whooping Rs. 8,313 crores for BWA spectrum. At least Rs. 7,000 crore is to be paid back to BSNL for the surrendered spectrum. While the government is negotiating with Vodafone for reducing its due tax of Rs.. 14,000 crore to help the MNC, it has no time to refund the money to BSNL for the surrendered spectrum to BSNL.

In fact, being a government company, BSNL should be exempted from paying the spectrum charges. BSNL was compelled to pay Rs. 18,500 crores to government together for 3G and BWA Spectrum, thus taking away all the cash reserves of the PSU. This full amount should be refunded to BSNL to help it to continue its expansion and development.

Procurement of Equipment
For the defence of the country, an efficient army is required. For an efficient army, disciplined and well-trained personnel are required. At the same time, it is also most important that the army is well equipped with the latest and strategic arms and ammunition.

It is not much different with BSNL. For growth and expansion, for better and efficient service, the procurement of necessary equipment is important. The latest technologies should be used in order to give a satisfactory service to the customers. Communication is one sector, which has grown by leaps and bounds, with latest technologies being invented one after another. It is said that those who lived in the 20th century belong to a generation which has seen unlimited inventions which have changed the world, which never happened for many centuries. And Telecommunication has been one sector in which these latest inventions have taken place.

Telephones, though invented in 1870s and applied for the use of the common people in India in the 1890s only, it has changed from the Magneto exchanges to Central battery system to auto exchanges and then to electronic system one after another in quick succession. In the transmission, switches, cables, airwaves, the progressive changes have been beyond description. Technologies changed one after another on quick succession. Now multiple technologies exit and are used for the communication services.

Can BSNL survive in the fierce competitive atmosphere in a casual manner, and without adapting to the new situation? In this, procurement of sufficient equipment of latest technology is required. But unfortunately, BSNL top management has utterly failed in this respect. As mentioned earlier, the anti-PSU policy of the government also has a role.

The revenue of BSNL started reducing after 2007-2008, not because the market was not there, but sufficient equipment was not purchased to meet the huge requirement. BSNL has been growing in the mobile sector, till 2006-2007. Out of a population of more than 100 crore, only 50 % had mobiles and a 50 crore market existed. The 45.5 million mobile tender floated by BSNL was to meet this huge requirement. But it had to face legal hurdles created by private companies, apathy on the part of the management and a negative attitude from the government. However, the hurdles were over by about two years and the purchase was to be made which would have armed BSNL to march ahead and conquer a good market share in the mobile section.

The government, fully aware that the growth of BSNL would have a negative effect on the private companies and MNCs which it wanted to favour, reacted immediately. It directed the BSNL to see that the tender is cancelled and the BSNL Board, even without a protest, just like ‘His Masters Voice’, cancelled the tender, though there was no written direction from the government. It should have fought for getting the equipment purchased on the basis of the tender. It was only through a complete successful one day strike on 11th July 2007 on the call of the Joint Forum of BSNL Unions/Associations that at least half of the tender, 22.5 million lines were procured. It helped BSNL to escape from complete stagnation. But that was only a temporary solution.

On pressure from the staff unions, another tender was floated for 93 million (9.3 crore) GSM lines, but that too was cancelled at the last moment citing some vigilance issues. Next tender for 5 million lines was also cancelled on some other pretext. The Government and management together ensured that the BSNL is completely out of stock of mobile lines. It was a golden period for the private companies to give millions of connections, without any competition from BSNL. The market share of BSNL went declining and reached to about 12% in the mobile sector. The private sector reached about 88% of the total mobile lines in the country.

The Forum of BSNL Unions took up the issue with the BSNL management and warned of going in to struggle if equipment are not procured. It was not only the case of GSM lines. There was acute shortage of cables, Broad-band modem, Drop wire and other equipment required for expansion and regular maintenance of the services. No equipment was purchased for a number of years creating a very critical situation.

The continued pressure of the Unions had some result. As per the management, Advance Purchase Orders have been issued for 22 lakhs clip instruments, a good number of cables, Broadband modems, drop wire etc. But the fact is, that most of the SSAs have still not got the same. The top management should take necessary steps to immediately to get the equipment purchased and distributed or authorise the SSAs to purchase the same.

At present, the procurement of equipment is done in an unplanned manner. Because there was much pressure from the Forum and unions, some purchase is made. After this, the situation may again go stagnant. The Management should have a well-planned strategy to purchase all equipment required for the growth, expansion and maintenance, even if necessary, by taking bank loan.

Drop-wire is being manufactured by the BSNL Telecom Factories and the production can be increased according to the requirement. As far as towers are concerned, again the factories can manufacture any number of towers. In fact, more than two hundred towers are ready for supply in the TFs, but SSA heads are purchasing the towers from outside citing certain technical problems. These have to be solved and the TF towers should be purchased and utilised. Efforts should be made to manufacture the optical fibre cables in our own factories. Tender for sufficient mobile lines, phone instruments etc. has to be floated. An effort should be made to manufacture Broad-band Modem in the TFs. It is not much difficult. In short, there should not be any shortage of equipment.

The Management should take immediate steps for the procurement, which will go a long way in expansion and a better service to the people.

Mandate to be given for Govt. and PSUs to use BSNL/MTNL services
BSNL is a government owned company which implements the policy of the government for providing universal service and communications all over the country. It is not working on profit basis, but on service basis. BSNL mainly deals with other PSUs on many important issues. On the insistence of BSNLEU, the Group Insurance Scheme and EPF funds were entrusted with the LIC, Bank Loans Scheme was signed with the PSU Banks, watches for employees were purchased from HMT etc. In the case of Air India, government have mandated that all central government and PSUs should travel by Air India alone to ensure the viability of the company. In the same way, the government should issue instructions that all the government and PSUs should take BSNL connections, both mobile and landlines.

Of course, there is necessity to improve the services. The management and the workers should take the responsibility for a better service. If the services are improved, naturally the subscribers will prefer a PSU instead of a private company.

The Forum demands the GoM that a mandate as stated above should be given to all government departments and PSUs which will have immediate impact on the workers and for efforts for a Better Service.

Top Management should belong to BSNL, not on deputation.
One important hurdle in the growth of BSNL is the sad fact that the top management of BSNL who has to plan and execute important decisions does not belong to BSNL, but is on deputation. While the 3.5 lakhs executives and non-executives got absorbed in BSNL after corporatisation, the 1600 and odd ITS officers continued on deputation, except very few who got absorbed.

All top positions in BSNL like Chief General Manager, General Manager etc. are occupied by ITS officers. They continue to be in the government service and is on deputation to BSNL. This anomalous situation had a very unhealthy environment for the growth of BSNL. Our strong opinion is that the BSNL should be managed by officers who belong to the organisation itself. That will result in more commitment and improve the functioning of the company. At present the future career prospects of the top management officers are not related with the growth of BSNL, but rest with the government, whether the company grows or not. We had suggested that new recruitment should take place to these posts and also that capable and eligible officials working in BSNL should be promoted. This will bring both experience and expertise.

BSNL was having about Rs.40,000 crore at its disposal when the company was formed. If this reserve has been used effectively for expansion and development, the present situation would have been different. In short we want that BSNL should be managed by a top management committed to the growth of the company.

Modernise the Telecom Factories.
Equipment crunch due to the inefficient management and the protracted procurement procedure is one of the most important factors which have paralyzed the growth of BSNL. Further, the intervention of the government at crucial times to stop the management from purchasing materials was the worst reason.

It is in this context that the importance of Telecom Factories comes to the front. BSNL has got 7 telecom factories viz. Alipore, Gopalpur, Kharagpore (all in Kolkata Telecom Factory Circle), Jabalpore, Richai, Bhilai ( all in Jabalpur Telecom Factory Circle) and Mumbai. The Alipore factory was the first established shortly after the telegraph services started. At the time of II World War, a portion of the installations were transported and installed at Wright Town in Jabalpore to ensure that even if Japan attacks Kolkata, another telecom factory will be functioning. Other factories were established after the telephone services developed fast. These factories are spread over hundreds of acres with sufficient space for expansion to any extent.

The bolt from the blue came in 1997-98, when the report of the V Central Pay Commission was submitted. It recommended closure or privatisation of the telecom factories. Though not a recognised union then, All India Telecom Employees Union Class III (Namboodiri,) took up the matter with the Parliamentary Consultative Committee chaired by Com. SomnathChatterjee, who called a meeting of the DOT and Unions. After hearing both, the Committee recommended that the factories are not to be closed, but modernised and strengthened as the union had demanded. Due to this recommendation, the telecom factories continue even now. Another effort was made by BSNL to close the telecom factory at Kharagpore stating that the foundry items like posts being manufactured in that factory are no more required and hence it can be closed. BSNL Employees Union went on strike and as per its demand, the manufacturing of towers started there.

But the management was least interested in modernisation. It was interested in purchasing items from outside, due to obvious reason. On the sustained pressure from the union, items like towers, Optical fibre MDF etc. are being manufactured now.

What is mainly required is modernisation. The Broadband Modem, cables, telephone instruments, Optical Fibre Cables etc. are in large demand and the same can be manufactured in addition to the towers.(Thousands of completed towers are lying in the factories, but the circles are purchasing towers from outside. This practice should be completely stopped). For this, expert Engineers trained in the manufacturing should be appointed in all the factories and the workers trained suitably.

More Importance to Research and Development required
The Telecom Factories and C-DOT should be developed so that they can be utilised for R&D and also for manufacturing as was done earlier. And according to the new directives of the government R&D is to be increased and local manufacturing should be ensured at least up to 30%. If these directions are implemented by DOT and BSNL, a lot of equipment crunch could be avoided to a certain extent, my manufacturing the same in the existing seven Telecom Factories.

Shortage of Field Staff – Fresh Recruitment required
BSNL which started with about three lakh non-executives have only about two lakhs now, since more than one lakh has retired without any recruitment. The average age of the non-executives will be around 52, which is rather high for a service sector like telecom. This has happened due to the long period of 25 years without much recruitment. There has been almost nil recruitment to the cadres like RM, TM etc. which are essentially the field staff for repair, maintenance etc at the customers end. One of the reasons for the deterioration of the customer service is the reduction of the field staff. The new recruitees belong to TTA and JTO, who are mainly utilized for indoor work.

Fresh blood is necessary for any organization. The field level work is adversely affected due to lack of young workers, who can be an asset to any organization. Hence it is necessary that new recruitment should take place for a better customer service. Along with that, the executives also should be engaged in a big way in the customer service and outdoor maintenance. This will have much benefit in improving the services.

Training & Retraining to the Staff
Technological advances are continuously taking place and the same is also being utilized in telecom services. While the top management and a section of the executives are being trained systematically to deal with new technology and developments, the non-executives are almost kept out of the process. BSNL still have about two lakh non-executives, who are dealing with the public, attending to fault repair, providing connections, laying cables etc. But they are mostly ignored in the training programme. Training and Re-Training should be a continuous process.

Functioning of Works Committees – Dialogue between the Management and Workers
Works Committees are to be formed and regular meetings held in all the SSAs between the field management and the workers representatives with regard to the improvement of telecom services, development, expansion etc. in that area. This decision was taken in the National Council years back and orders issued. Despite repeated reminders from the BSNL Corporate Office, most of the SSAs have neither formed the committee, nor started holding the meetings. Effective and frank discussion at the field level is required to find out the weaknesses, plan for better service, improvement, expansion etc. Work Committees should be effectively utilized.

Face the challenge for a better future
These are some of the suggestions placed before the Government, BSNL Management and the BSNL Workers for strengthening BSNL and for a Better Service to the customers. There are many other suggestions, which will be focused later.
As stated earlier, the struggle to change the anti-PSU policy of the government, its decision to bring unlimited FDI to the telecom sector, favouritism towards private sector etc. has to be continued with out any break. In this, BSNL Workers are not alone. The entire trade union movement in the country, under the leadership of the 11 Central Trade Unions, is on struggle path against the anti-worker policies of the government.

The Government, Management and Workers jointly have to strive hard to face the challenge and ensure that the telecom PSU, BSNL, is saved and restored to the position it held for more than a century with excellent service to the Nation. This should be made a reality through the sustained struggles of the BSNL workers.