Certain points with regard to the “Save BSNL – Save Nation” campaign

1. BSNL formed on 01-10-2000 as part of the neo-liberal policy of the central government as the first step towards telecom privatisation. The declared aim of the government was to make it the first telecom company in the world and award Maharatna status. BSNL was 7th in the world at that time.
2. From the start, BSNL was discriminated against private operators, who were given licence for the first time in 1994-95. Licence for providing mobile service was granted to private companies by 1995, but denied to DOT/MTNL/BSNL. Only after approaching court and strong protest from employees, it was granted after 7 years in 2002. This caused great loss in market share to the PSUs.
3. Licence Fee to be paid by the private companies for grant of licence, was changed from Licence Fee to Revenue Sharing which resulted in a loss of more than Rs. 1,000 crore to the government ( 1995 – 1999 period)
4. BSNL surpassed all other telcos within three four years and was competing for the first place with Airtel by 2005. For this purpose, global tender to purchase 45.5 million mobile lines was finalised, but this was cancelled by the government on flimsy grounds to favour the private companies. Again, tenders for 93 million and 5 million lines were also cancelled. (After sustained struggles by the workers 22.5 million (50% of the first tender) was only allowed). This created the biggest down fall for BSNL and stopped its onward march in a big way.
5. The government wanted to disinvest, impose VRS on one lakh workers, unbundle the priceless copper wires etc. to weaken BSNLEU, but had to withdraw all these after protracted strike by workers in 2005-07 period.
6. BSNL was in profit from the start and was so till 2009-10. It had more than Rs. 29,000 crore accumulated profit. Large amount of dividend given to DOT.
7. Cash balance of about Rs.40,000 crore of BSNL in the banks were gradually taken away by the government on one pretext or other. First it was about Rs. 12,500 crores interest for a notional loan of Rs. 7,500 crore, which was never given. Rs. 18,500 crore was taken as cost of spectrum, while the amount paid by the private operators was only about Rs. 5,000 to 6,000. This was done by compelling BSNL to take licence all over India, not allowing to participate in the tender and charging at the highest rates. This way, all the surplus cash was appropriated.
8. As per government orders, pension contribution for the employees is to be on the basis of the actual salary which the employee is drawing. This is to be paid by the BSNL to the government, since the government is paying pension for BSNL absorbed employees as per the agreement in 2000. But the government is forcibly collecting pension contribution on the maximum of the pay scale, all these 18 years. This will come to more than Rs. 6,000 crore at the least.
9. The BWA spectrum was returned to the government since it was not useful, but the payment already made to the government is not refunded so far despite assurances.
10. At the time of formation of BSNL, it was assured that since the company is providing services in the villages, remote areas, naxal affected areas, border areas etc., which are loss making and in which the private companies are not interested, government will assist BSNL through Access Deficit Charge (ADC), Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) etc. to ensure communications services throughout the country. These were all withdrawn within a few years without any justification.
11. In the same way, all government projects like NOFN, NFS etc are allotted to BSNL to implement, but at the same time, sufficient funds are not allotted. In fact, to complete these projects for the government, the company has to spend much more than what is paid by the government. Further a good portion of the work force has to be utilised for the same adversely affecting regular service.
12. 4G Spectrum, which has been allotted to the private companies two years back, is not allotted to BSNL, hampering its upgradation of services. Govt. tried formation of separate Tower Company to destroy BSNL, by hiving of the money earning sector.
13. BSNL is in loss for the past few years due to the above as also due to cut throat competition, which has resulted in the lowest charge for telecom services throughout the world. All the private companies are also in loss. Bank loans of more than one lakh crore are to be paid by Idea, Vodafone etc. Though Reliance Jio says they are in profit by manipulating accounts, it is in loss of more than Rs.2 lakh crore. This is now mainly due to the predatory prices being started by Reliance Jio to finish all other companies including BSNL.
14. After the entry of Reliance Jio, the Government has been giving undue favours to it. Prime Minister Modi’s photo was put in the front page advertisements of Reliance Jio, as if the Prime Minister himself is its Brand Ambassador. They were allowed to continue special offers for more than 6 months against the existing regulation, below cost tariffs were introduced; cables were laid without the permission the local authorities etc.
15. The officers who questioned such illegal and irregular activities were shunted from top posts. J.S.Deepak, Secretary, DOT was shunted to another department for enquiring TRAI why no action is taken about the predatory pricing of Jio. Ravi Shankar Prasad, Communication Minister was probably shunted out as he started actions to improve the BSNL services.
16. NITI Ayog recommended for closure or privatisation of BSNL. It is pertinent in this context to mention the statement of Mukesh Ambani, owner of Reliance Jio, that BSNL is its only competitor. Despite all the competition and anti-policy of the government BSNL is increasing its market share from 9.4 to 9.76 and also mobile connections.
17. BSNL requires loan for developmental activities. But the government is not permitting to avail loan. In fact all other companies are doing their business only by taking loans which have gone up to more than Rs. 3 or 4 lakh crore.
18. Government is proposing VRS for more than 54,000 employees from the existing 1.76 lakh workforce. When the workforce was more than 3.5 lakhs, BSNL was making good profits. By implementing VRS, no company has improved. Case of MTNL for study. Reducing the work force will only be detrimental.
19. BSNL has suggested monetisation of the building, land asset etc. to pass over the crisis. This is not allowed at first. Now the govt is proposing monetisation of assets for the expenditure towards VRS.
20. The All Unions and Associations of BSNL (AUAB), the joint platform of the BSNL officers and employees, is on continuous struggles, strikes and agitation to improve the services and against privatisation and closure. That is why the government is unable to implement its anti-BSNL programmes easily. Three days strike was organised recently demanding 4G spectrum, permission to take loans, refund of extra collected pension contribution etc.
21. While special cabinet meeting was held to find out methods to assist the Jet Airways, which is in distress, the government is not taking any such steps to assist its own company BSNL.
22. If BSNL is privatised, the present lowest telecom charges will be astronomically increased by the private companies as a cartel. It was only when BSNL entered the mobile sector, that the charges were reduced to more than half. Disappearance of BSNL will not only adversely affect the BSNL subscribers, but the entire 120 crores of mobile subscribers, as all of them will have to pay the higher tariff, which will be introduced.
23. Salary for the month of February was delayed by the management probably to compel the workers to opt for VRS. Ten years back, the proposal to implement VRS for one lakh workers could not be implemented due to agitation by workers. Nobody opted.
24. BSNL can be made profitable and service improved by:
a) Allot 4 G Spectrum immediately followed by 5G spectrum.
b) Allow BSNL to take loan for developmental activities.
c) Refund all dues to BSNL including refund of extra collected pension contribution, service dues by central government, refund of interest collected for the notional loan etc.
d) Stop the unjustified favouritism to Reliance Jio, violating all rules and regulations.
e) Discuss with the employees’ unions/associations for improvement of services.
f) Implement Pay Revision, Pension Revision etc from the due date, w.e.f. 01-012017
g) Withdraw the proposal to send out 54,000 workers through VRS. Make payment of wages to the contract workers coming to about one lakh, which payment is delayed for 3 to 10 months.
h) There is good news that BSNL has earned about Rs.6500 crores in the Enterprises sector, despite stiff competition.
i) Restore the USOF, ADC etc. to cover up the loss of providing universal connectivity including remote localities, border areas etc.
Fill up all the posts of Directors of the company, including that of Director (Finance) which is vacant for years together.