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Hello There! Fate of 1800 BSNL officers to hit 80 crore phone subscribers pan-India

Updated: December 31, 2011 5:22 pm

The November 3, 2011, order of Department of Telecommunication (DoT), Central Government to relieve 1800 Indian Telecom Service officers working in various offices of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) across India, asking them to either opt for absorption in the BSNL or return to the parent body DoT in New Delhi, is likely to hit the entire 80 crores telephone subscribes in the country, including 12 crore BSNL users.

These officers, many of them with 30 odd years of service and having been with BSNL right from the time it was carved out of the Department of Telecommunications, Central government on 1st October 2000, are in a dilemma as their ‘deemed deputation’ comes to an end. While they do not wish to give up their status of Central government employees and get absorbed in BSNL, the second option of going back to DoT also seems unattractive as it may mean them becoming redundant in the very near future as there is not likely to be so much work for all of them at their parent body. It was the DoT letter of 22nd September initiating the absorption of ITS grade A officers working on ‘deemed deputation since October 2000 that has had an unsettling effect on the staff of BSNL.

In 1947 there were just 40,000 telephones in India today there are over 12 crore telephones. In the last 11 years BSNL has generated revenue of Rs 18,000 crores. But since the last few years it has been incurring huge losses. While in the last financial year (2010-2011) the losses were to the tune of Rs 6000 crores, in the coming financial year it is expected to touch Rs 10,000 crores. Intense cost cutting, including curtailment of perks and medical facilities have been introduced in the previous years. A plan to reduce the retirement age in BSNL from 60 to 58 is also in the offing, whereas the Central government is likely to increase the retirement age to 62.

There is likely to be a review of performance of employees in BSNL above 55 years and 20-25 per cent may be removed on CRS. A cut in salaries up to 20-25 per cent is likely with effect from January 2012. Medical facilities are likely to be curtailed or withdrawn completely. “BSNL losses are a matter of grave concern for all of us, but this decision without any backup or contingency plans appears to be both against the interest of the employees and the telecom users. It will be painful to see a unit we had built up with so much efforts collapsing,” said Mr AK Goel, Principal General Manager, Northern Telecom Region, Lucknow. Goel is one of the 190 BSNL officers from Uttar Pradesh who will be affected by this order told Uday India.

Expressing deep concern over the fate of BSNL he said that the work culture has already been badly affected. While accepting the losses Mr A K Mishra, additional GM Lucknow District, said that it is not just BSNL but even private telecom players who have incurred losses.

“Very tough competition and falling tariffs are behind this. Besides BSNL is a public sector unit and 45 per cent of its revenue goes as salaries for its three lakh employees. Whereas private companies only spent 10-12 per cent of revenue on salaries,” said Mr. Mishra adding that BSNL, a fully government owned company has all along been fulfilling its social obligation which includes setting up exchanges in rural areas which are low profit. Besides it is dutifully maintaining the legacy of fixed line network.

Indeed this Diwali brought little cheer to BSNL senior staff. The moving of 1800 officers to Delhi will cost the government nearly Rs 20 crores. These trained and experiences officers, all recruited through UPSE are likely to be replaced by temporary staff, including retired BSNL officers. One can just imagine the work culture which has already deteriorated as the subordinates are not sure which minute their boss may get the relieving orders.

The Government must set the BSNL house in order with immediate effect otherwise it will be charged with playing again into the hands of private telecom players.Another scam, another 2G, 3G in the offing?

By Kulsum Mustafa from Lucknow

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