The fate of 180,000 BSNL unpaid employees hangs in balance as fears of a shutdown loom large
- Bharat Sanchar Nigam (BSNL) whose debt of ₹130 billion has piled up.
- Fear has gripped 1.8 lakh employees of the company as their June salaries are yet to be paid.
- The company has written to the telecom ministry, seeking help from government.
Nothing short of a bailout from the government can help the state-owned telecom operator Bharat Sanchar Nigam (BSNL). The company has a debt of ₹130 billion piled up leaving no funds for salaries.
Just a few days back, the company which owns licence to offer telecom services across the country, except Delhi and Mumbai, asked a handout from the government to pay ₹8.5 billion in salaries.
For the last one month, fear has gripped 1.8 lakh employees of the company as their June salaries are still pending. Their benefits have been pending for months now. In fact, contractual workers of the company are in a much tougher position as their salaries have been pending for the last seven months. Such workers in Amritsar have already staged a protest demanding salaries.
Added to that, a bunch of them lost their jobs in early June, after the company decided to retrench 30% of its contractual staff to cut down ‘avoidable expenditure’,” says a report.
In the meanwhile, the company has written to the telecom ministry early last week elucidating its troubles. "The gap between monthly revenues and bare expenses to continue operations as a going concern has reached a level where continuing with the BSNL operations would be nearly impossible without immediate infusion of adequate equity," Puran Chandra, senior general manager at BSNL reportedly wrote in the letter.
BSNL has also sought a fund of ₹25 billion to keep itself afloat.
The state-owned player’s problems started after private telecom operators started eating into the market. In spite of spectrum, assets and legacy, the player, which was amongst the top players in 2005, dropped spots rapidly by the end of 2010.
Added to that, the government also delayed its plans to place a tender to upgrade its networks for years, leaving the company in an uncompetitive space.
In the past, the government had considered many ways to salvage BSNL, and one of them being a merger with yet another state-owned company MTNL. Yet, none of them materialised.
For years, BSNL has also been requesting the government to allow them to monetise its vast real estate assets across the country. Department of Telecommunications however shot down the proposal saying that it is the government which owns these assets and not BSNL, hence it is impossible to sell them.