Meeting with Secretary DOT on 1st May 2015

The Secretary DOT called for a meeting on 1st May 2015 with the Forum after a few days of the strike. The same was held in the Committee Room of the Sanchar Bhawan. In addition to the Secretary DOT Shri Rakesh Garg, Special Secretary Smt. Rita Teotia, Member (Finance) Smt. Annie Moraes, Member (Services) Shri N.K.Yadav, Administrator USO Fund Smt. Aruna Sundera Rajan, Joint Secretary (T) Shri V.Umashankar, Director PSU Shri Sanjeev Gupta and other senior officers were present from the DOT. BSNL was represented by CMD Shri Anupam Shrivastava, ED(Finance) Smt. Sujata Ray, Sr GM(SR) Shri Shamim Akthar and other officers.

The Forum was represented by Com. C.Singh (NFTE) Chairman, V.A.N.Namboodiri (Convener), P.Abhimanyu (BSNLEU), K.Jaya Prakash(FNTO), Prahlad Rai(AIBSNLEA), K.Sebastin(SNEA), S.V.S.Subrahmaniam(BTEU),Suresh Kumar (BSNL MS), Rasheed Khan (TEPU), H.P.Singh (BSNLOA), Sunil Gautam (SNATTA), R.P.Sahu (AIGETOA), Rakesh Sethi (AIBSNLOA), Hari Singh (BTU BSNL), Rana Pratap (BEA), and S.Raveendran (SEWA BSNL).

The meeting started at 17.15 hours. Secretry DOT welcomed all the participants, who introduced themselves. Convener Forum thanked the Secretary DOT for holding the meeting, though only after the strike. He conveyed May Day Greetings to all present. He also mentioned about the statements of the Communications Minister regrading his concerns for the revival of BSNL, which is a good sign. The the issues connected with the strike were discussed, a brief report of which is given below.

  1. Financial Assistance from Government and implementation of assurance given at the time of corporatisation of BSNL: The Forum leaders pointed out that at the time of corporatisation, the then Communications Minister Shri Ram Vilas Paswan had assured full support for the new entity and orders were issued to financially assist BSNL through payment of ADC, Reimbursement of Licence Fee and also liberal subsidy from the USO Fund. Within a few years, all these have been discontinued creating a heavy financial burden on the BSNL resulting in loss for the last five years. The Forum representatives demanded that all these assurances be implemented / restored. The amount of Rs. 1,250 crore recommended from the USOF in lieu of ADC for 2012-13 is not yet paid to BSNL. It needs to be paid urgently and such allotments should be made for subsequent years also. BSNL is having a loss of about Rs. 10,000 crores yearly for providing rural connections etc. As per the universal service policy of the government, this should be fully compensated by the government. Further, the Forum demanded that refund of charges for the BWA spectrum surrendered by BSNL coming to about Rs. 6,700 crore be paid with out any further delay

BSNL is eligible for refund of Income tax paid, considering its payment to DOT on various counts. This may come to about Rs. 7,000 crore. This should be refunded.

By making of Pension contribution on the basis of the maximum of the pay scale, BSNL was compelled to pay about Rs. 2,400 crore extra, which is to be refunded. The government order on payment of pension contribution on the actual basic pay should be implemented in the case of BSNL.

The salary of the employees in the TERM CELL, which is part of DOT, is being paid by BSNL, which should be repaid to BSNL.

Further, for immediate purchase of urgently required equipments, DOT should give a soft loan of about Rs. 10,000 crore to BSNL.

The Secretary DOT stated that the amount in lieu of ADC from USOF is given as per recommendations of TRAI and DOT will do accordingly in future also. Process of payment of Rs. 1,250 crore allotted has started and will be paid early.

The refund charges of BWA Spectrum is being considered. The reconciliation for the refund of the Income Tax paid has started and will be finalised soon. The issue of payment of pension contribution on the basis of the actual pay will be taken up with the government. The question of repayment made to TERM CELL on salary etc. also will be considered. With regard to soft loan of Rs. 10,000 crore, Secretary DOT stated that BSNL can take the loans from the banks.

He further stated that the government has to provide level playing field to all the operators to which the Forum leaders pointed out that in fact the privte players are being favoured as in the case of giving earlier licence for mobile services.

2. Revision of Pension of BSNL Retirees and orders for 78.2% IDA pension fixation for pre-2007 and post-2007 retirees up to June 2013:

The Forum leaders expressed strong resentment at the undue delay in issue of orders on 78.2% IDA pension fixation for the BSNL retirees up to June 2013. Those who retired after June 2013 have already received the same. The pensioners are put to much loss in their pension. Already it has been delayed for years and early orders are required. They also demanded that Pension Revision should be made whenever there is a wage/pay revision for employees. They also demanded that the 60% – 40% condition on payment of pension is unjustified and should be done away with.

The Secretary DOT agreed to take up the matter of Pension Revision with the government. He assured that the cabinet Note for 78.2% is being prepared and will be finalised soon. With regard to removal of 60% – 40% condition on pension payment, the earlier DOT orders mentioned by Forum will be examined.

3. No Merger of BSNL and MTNL: The Forum demanded that before any merger decision is taken, the liabilities of MTNL to the extent of Rs. 20,000 crore has to be waived, the disinvested shares to be purchased back and HR issues settled.

Secretary DOT told that no decision has been taken and the concerns raised by the Forum will be attended to before any decision is taken.

4. Filling up of posts of Directors in BSNL: To the demand of the Forum for filling up posts of directors in BSNL, Secretary DOT stated that government is taking action in the matter.

5. Transfer of all assets to BSNL: Forum demanded that all the assets of BSNL should be transferred to it without delay. Further, the representatives stated that many buildings are being taken by CCA arbitrarily. This should be stopped.

DOT stated that the demarcation between DOP and DOT is still pending in some places. This has to be identified. The transfer of assets to BSNL is being examined.

6. BSNL service to be mandatory to central / state governments and PSUs: Secretary DOT stated that the demand of the Forum for making the BSNL services mandatory to the the governments etc is not accepted. There are a lot of complaints about BSNL services and in this situation , the government will not accept any such proposal. The Forum leaders explained the reasons for the present position of inefficiency and intimated that suggestions for improvement of the same have been made by them.

7. Other issues like 30% of superannuation benefits to BSNL recruited officials, reduced pay scales etc. were raised, but the Secretary DOT stated that these are in the domains of BSNL.

The meeting ended at about 19.00 hours, after vote of thanks to the Chair and all. The Convener Forum proposed that such meetings should be held in future also to sort out pending issues.

A Sag of Struggles and Defense for survival and revival of BSNL.

The BSNL employees were continuously on struggles to defend the interests of the BSNL and its workers from the formation of BSNL itself. The Joint Forum / Joint Action Committee / Forum of BSNL Unions and Associations of Non-Executives and Executives, by whichever name it was called at different times, was in the forefront in leading the struggles. It is a credit to BSNL Employees that they did not allow the government to implement either disinvestment or VRS, though it has taken decisions more than once.

The Unity, Dedication and Determination of BSNL workers had stood the test of time. The task at present is to improve the services to the customers on the one hand and to strengthen and make BSNL fiancially viable on the other side. The government should be made to support BSNL, the telecom PSU, instead of trying to hand it over to the private. Sustained struggles will be required for the same.

SAVE – BSNL, SAVE NATION is the immediate task. BSNL can not be allowed to die or to be killed. It has to be restored to its past glory with an efficient service to the customers. The BSNL employees under the banner of forum of BSNL Unions and associations will continue to fight for the revival of BSNL and against the neo-liberal, anti- PSU policies of the Government.

( These articles were written immediately after the agreement on 1st May 2015 and are reproduced. The struggles and achievements during the years since will be posted after some time.) – V.A.N.Namboodiri (Convener of the Forum till 2015. ) – [CONCLUDED]