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Centre committed to reviving BSNL: Telecom Minister
Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Wednesday said the Centre is committed to reviving the beleaguered BSNL but it was not possible to retain all its employees.
Prasad also said in Lok Sabha that nearly one lakh employees of the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) have opted for the Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS).
“The government of India is committed for the revival of the BSNL. Our intention is to keep the BSNL alive and that it performs. But it is not possible to retain all employees,” he said during the Question Hour.
The minister said the central government wanted the revival of the BSNL for public service and fairness.
He said 74 per cent of the BSNL revenue goes towards salaries of employees while in case of the private sector telecom operators, the salary outgo is less than 10 per cent.
On the possibility of BSNL adopting the 4G technology, Prasad said the Union Cabinet has taken a decision in this regard and the BSNL will roll out 4G services soon.
Dismissing the suggestion that the VRS was not attractive and it was a replication of the ‘‘Gujarat model’’, the minister said, “The Gujarat model is good. Everything about Gujarat is not bad”.
When former Telecom Minister and DMK member claimed that the minister was giving “half truth” about the salary outgo of the private sector telecom operators, Prasad said he was giving the correct information. “I don’’t want to go into legacy issues (of the BSNL). If I dig, many things will come out,” he said.
Prasad said contract employees connected with the BSNL were employees of contractors, not of the BSNL.
“We are making payments to contractors so that they can stand on their own feet,” he said. In his written reply, Prasad said the BSNL has been incurring losses since 2009-10. On the basis of its financial performance and as per the guidelines issued by Department of Public Enterprises (DPE), BSNL was classified as “Incipient sick CPSE” in 2017.
BSNL had a workforce of 1,55,296 employees as on October 1, 2019. The employee cost was 74 per cent of the total revenue for the 2018-19 of BSNL, he said. The minister said the government has approved the revival plan for BSNL on October 23, 2019 which inter-alia, includes reduction in staff cost through VRS for employees of age of 50 years and above. The VRS was offered by BSNL to its employees on October 4, 2019. The scheme was closed on December 3, 2019. 78,569 employees of BSNL have opted for the VRS, he said.
Prasad said the BSNL has informed as per provision of the VRS, the posts falling vacant due to VRS are abolished and there is no recruitment against the vacancies.