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Strike on 11th July 2007 for 4.55 crore mobile lines

Despite the demand of the Joint Forum and agitational programmes, there was no move to purchase mobile equipment as per the tender approved. Justifying the decision to cancel the tender Communications Minister Sri A.Raja issued the following statement:
“I will not allow BSNL to purchase 4.55 million cellular lines at the rates quoted by the lowest bidder. The rates are too high. If BSNL goes ahead with the tender in the current form and award L-1, the APO will be paying close to Rs.10,000 crore more unnecessarily. A delay was unavoidable in the circumstances. It is important to correct mistakes at any stage even if it holds up development.
It is surprising Motorola, one of the leaders in the world Telecommunication equipments and a firm that supplies 2G and 3G equipments to MTNL, cannot qualify technically.”
The intervention to stop the tender by the Minister was completely unjustified and against the interest BSNL. Further there was no justification to compare the rates with that of purchased by MTNL, since the present tender were for equipments with higher technical standards.
If the tender was delayed or cancelled, BSNL will be out of race in the mobile market and will cause loss of many thousands of crores of rupees. In fact, BSNL will become almost irrelevant in the mobile sector.
Sensing the deep crisis going to follow, the Joint Forum met and decided to bring the same to the notice of the Government. Thousands of telegrams were sent to the Prime Minister and Communications Minister demanding immediate action to allow BSNL to purchase the equipments. It was also decided to organize the following action programmes culminating in strike, it suitable action is not taken by the government.
1. Badge wearing demonstration in front of exchanges / offices on 5th July 2007 onwards.
2. Massive Dharnas before offices/exchanges on 9th and 10th July 2007.
3. One Day Strike on 11th July 2007, which will be converted in to Indefinite Strike, if the issues are not settled.
The demonstrations and dharnas were enthusiastically and with maximum participation of workers, organized throughout the country. Workers rose to the occasion. It was a warning that if the issue is not settled workers will go on strike.
Strike Notice for 11th July 2007 was served on the BSNL Management and DOT signed by General Secretaries of the following unions/associations:
V.A.N.Namboodiri (BSNLEU), Convener JF, M.B.Vichare (NFTE), K.Vallinayagam (FNTO), V.Narayana (BSNLMS), Prahlad Rai (AIBSNLEA), G.L.Jogi (SNEA), S.P.Sharma (BSNLWRU),S.V.S.Subrahmanyam(BTEU) and V.Subburaman (TEPU).
Meeting with the Minister on 9-10 July 2007.
Communications Minister, A.Raja met the JF leaders and had detailed discussions on 9th and 10th July on the demands of the unions. Secretary DOT, D.S.Mathur and CMD BSNL along with Board members were present. The Minister gave certain assurances and it was further assured that it will be conveyed to the Convener JF in writing.
But the letter received from the DOT dated 10th July to Convener JF vague and not satisfactory as can be seen below:
“Govt. of India, Ministry of Communications and IT, Department of telecommunications, 20 Ashoka Road, Sanchar Bhawan, New Delhi dated 10th July 2007.
To, Shri V.A.N.Namboodiri, Convener of Joint Forum of BSNL Unions/Associations of Non-Executives and Executives and General Secretary BSNL Employees Union, New Delhi.
Sub: Notice for Dharna on 9th and 10th July 2007 before offices/exchanges at all levels and one day strike on 11th July 2007.
1. This has reference to the meeting taken by Hon’ble MOC and IT on 10th July 2007 with the representatives of Joint Forum of BSNL on the above mentioned subject.
2. During the meeting, various concerns of BSNL employees were deliberated in detail. After the discussions, the following decisions emerged:
• BSNL will give its response to all the queries raised within a week’s time (This has already been communicated to you vide BSNL letter No. BSNL/39/7/SR/2007 dated 10th July 2007).
• MOC and IT expressed his concern about BSNL and assured that while taking a decision on response of BSNL, interest f BSNL will be protected.
• During the intervening period till receipt of supplies under the tender, appropriate steps will be taken to ensure that BSNL does not suffer due to lack of new work capacity.
• Serious efforts will be made so that BSNL remain in full readiness to utilize the benefits of technological evolution in 2G/3G/Wi-Max etc.
• In view of the above, you are requested to withdraw the strike on 11th July 2007.

(Sd) D.S.Mathur, Secretary, DOT. “
The Forum was not satisfied with the letter, since no concrete decision was given to purchase the equipment on the basis of the tender and conveyed the same to the Minister.
Another meeting with the Minister.
The Minister held another meeting with the JF in the night of 10th July, only hours before the proposed strike, in an effort to resolve the issue. While the Minister stood by whatever was assured in the morning, but was not prepared to put in writing.
JF meets and decides for Strike
The JF met immediately in the late night and discussed the developments in detail. The Joint Forum decided to go ahead with the strike decision, since the demands have not been accepted. Immediately, the JF issued Circulars and press releases, which gave wide publicity to the strike. (To be continued)