More than a lakh employees and officers working with the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) have started the three-day nation-wide strike highlighting their long pending issues including the allocation of 4G spectrum to the public sector telecom entity and wage revision. The massive participation of workers in various circles of BSNL conveys a strong message to the centre which has been constantly trying to destabilise the Public Sector Undertaking (PSU).

The strike which had been called by All Unions and Associations of BSNL (AUAB) – a united platform of various organisations including BSNL Employees’ Union, National Federation of Telecom Employees, All India Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited Executive’s Association, Sanchar Nigam Executives’ Association, All India Graduate Engineer and Telecom Officer’s Association, Telecommunication Employees Progressive Union, BSNL Officers Association among others – started the protest at 12 am on Monday, and it will continue till January 20.

The striking workforce paid homage to the CRPF forces who had been killed in the Pulwama terror attack on Monday morning. Following the attacks, Jammu and Kashmir circle of BSNL has been excluded from the strike.

Along with the strike call, AUAB has put forward an eight-point charter of demands. Allocation of 4G spectrum to BSNL is the primary one in the demand charter. Though the private operators were allotted 4G spectrum in October 2016 itself, BSNL is still waiting for the 4G spectrum. The absence of 4G services reduces the competency, and it may eventually lead to the dismantling of BSNL.

“The effect of the closure or disinvestment of BSNL or MTNL will be that there would not be any competition and the corporates like Reliance Jio would raise the charges as much as they want since there is no public sector service to curtail the charges,” said VAN Namboodiri of BSNL Casual and Contract Workers Federation.

“Secondly, if it is disinvestment, the corporate sharks are waiting for the land assets of the BSNL/MTNL, as had happened in the case of VSNL by Tata. Another aspect is that only BSNL is serving in certain border areas and in Naxal-affected regions. At the time of the floods, natural calamities etc., it is only BSNL which comes to the rescue,” he said.

The proposals regarding allocation of the 4G spectrum had been submitted by BSNL in December, 2017. In the meeting that was held on February 24, 2018, the minister had assured that 4G spectrum would be allotted to BSNL. But the promise is yet to be fulfilled even after so many protests and meetings.

“Abnormal delay in the allotment of 4G spectrum to BSNL is adversely affecting the financial revival of the Company. NITI Aayog and Finance Ministry, which doled out huge concessions to bail out the private operators, are opposing 4G spectrum allotment to BSNL,” AUAB said in statement.

Other demands by the employees include payment of pension contribution by BSNL as per the government rule, approval for BSNL’s Land Management Policy without any delay, scrapping of BSNL’s outsourcing for the operation and maintenance of its mobile towers etc.

The final demand in the charter is the settlement of the left out issues of the 2nd Pay Revision Committee. (Courtesy: Newsclick)