The Telecom Factories – Excellent Tradition of Telecom Production
There are now 7 Telecom Factories functioning under BSNL at present. They are situated at Alipore, Gopalpur and Kharagpur ( all in Kolkata and nearby), Jabalpur, Richai ( in M.P.) Bhilai (in Chhattisgarh) and Mumbai. The first three are in Telecom Factory Kolkata Circle, the second three are in Jabalpur Telecom Factory Circle and the third under Telecom Factory Mumbai Circle. These Circles work directly under the control of the BSNL Corporate office. They are producing various telecom equipment for BSNL. About 3000 workers, both industrial and non-industrial, are employed in these factories.
The starting point was the introduction of Telegraph Services in India. The first telegram was sent from Howrah to Diamond Harbour in 1850. Within a few years the services expanded and it became necessary for a workshop to repair the equipment. Thus the first P andT Workshop was established in 1855 at Alipore in Calcutta, which was the capital of the East India Company and that of the British India after 1858.
Though started as a workshop, it gradually started manufacturing telegraph and connected equipment and later telephone equipment. Another Workshop was started at Jabalpore during the II World War to increase the production and also to ensure that if Japan invades Calcutta, the production will not be stopped and can be done at Jabalpore.
The Bombaty Telecom Factory was originally a repair workshop of the former Bombay Telephone Company (private company) and was taken along with the Telephone system there in 1943 and developed in to a production unit.
In 1978 the Bhilai Telecom Factory in M.P.(now in Chhattisgarh)was opened. Kharagpur Factory was started in 1988 for production of foundry items. Gopalpur and Richai Factory were also established consequent to the vast development of the telephone services.
Later the name of P and T Workshops was changed in to Telecom Factories. In fact after formation of BSNL, the name is required to be changed in to BSNL Factories.
Production in the Telecom Factories
Though at first it was started as only a repair workshop for Telegraphs, Calcutta P and T Work Shop gradually started manufacturing of equipment for Telegraphs and Telephones including line construction and storing. Gradually, it started manufacture of Local and Trunk Boards and other connected equipment.The rapid growth of telephones and telegraphs necessitated manufacture of many items required for the services. Accordingly production started in the various telecom factories for the following items:
Tube Making, Galvanising, Foundry, CT Box, STD Pay Phones, Towers, BHT, DP Box, Line Jack Unit, Integrated Protection Module, IN PCO, Jointing Kits, SS Drop Wire, Towers for Cellular Service, Repair of Cards, Repair of IFWTs, OFC MD, PLB Pipes etc.
Microwave Towers were manufactured on a large scale. After the mobile service started, Mobile towers were also manufactured both in Khargapur and Jabalpur -Richai Factories.
The great demand for PLB pipes in connection with the NOFN project resulted in manufacturing the same in Alipore factory. It is going to be manufactured in Jabalpur Factory also.
Proposal to close Telecom Factories defeated.
The Fifth Central Pay Commission 1996 recommended closure or privatisation of telecom factories. All India Telecom Employees Union Class III took up the issue with the Shri Somnath Chatterjee, Chairman of the Parliamentary Consultative Committee of Communications, who called a meeting of the committee in which the representative of the union as well as DOT participated. After hearing both, it was decided that the TFs should not be closed. but should be modernised and developed.
Later after formation of BSNL, there was a move to close the Kharagpur TF, on the plea that no foundry items like Telephone Posts, Socket etc. are required and hence this TF which manufacturing such items can be closed. The real intention was to hand over the vast area of the land assets of Kharagpur TF to the Tatas, whose Factory was next to TF. The workers there under the leadership of BSNLEU went on strike, the CHQ put pressure on the management and hence the closure proposal was closed and manufacture of Mobile Towers started in a big way in the TF.
Industrial and Non-industrial Workers in Telecom Factories.
There were a good number of industrial workers in all the telecom factories since manufacturing was the main feature. The industrial workers are covered by the Factories Act while the non-industrial staff are covered under the CCS(CCA) Rules/ CDA Rules. The payscales are also different. Though the Union wanted that the service conditions should be the same, the Management has not so far decided upon the matter.
National Council Committee visits Telecom Factories – October 2007
As per the decision of the National Council, a Joint Committee consisting of DDG (TF) Shri R.P.Nigam and then General Secretary BSNLEU Com. V.A.N.Namboodiri, visited all the 7 Telecom Factories and enquired about the working condition as also manufacturing processes. The committee submitted recommendations for the improvement of working conditions and improving the infrastructure for better manufacturing and production. Some of these were implemented, but mostly ignored and not implemented.
Committe for Restructuring and Rationalisation of Non-Executives – 2006
A Committee for the “Restructuring of non-Executive Cadres in Telecom Factories” was constituted by BSNL under the Chairmanship of Shri Abdul Majeed, DDG (TF) in April 2006. BSNLEU gave detailed note to the committee on the subject which was also seriously considered. The recommendations of the committee was partially implemented. But certain important recommendations like merger of payscales, which would have benefited the workers were not implemented.
The Future of Telecom Factories
As explained earlier, moves have been afoot to close the telecom factories in the past. While there was sufficient scope to modernise and start new productions in the factories, no serious action was taken for the same. Instead equipment were being purchased from market at higher costs.
No recruitment has been made in the past despite the fact that thousands of workers have retired. Some of the works are being done by contract workers. Gradually all the workers will be retired and the works will be at a stop.
There is a planned move by the government to close the factories and sell the land assets as per the neo-liberalisation policy. Though we could stop it earlier by sustained and strong struggles, the government will try again. The BSNL Management also do not have much interest in retaining the Factories.
It is only the sustained efforts and struggles of the workers that the Telecom Factories can be saved. BSNL Employees union is committed to this task.