Millennium Post

BSNL unions say Govt patronising Jio, threaten indefinite strike

New Delhi: Blaming Reliance Jio for financial woes of the telecom sector, employee unions of PSU Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) on Wednesday alleged that the government was favouring the latest entrant over other firms and said they will go on an indefinite strike from December 3. The employee unions claimed that the government has not allotted spectrum for 4G services to BSNL in order to prevent it from competing against Reliance Jio.

Reliance Jio did not comment on the allegations. "As of now, the whole telecom industry is gripped with a crisis.... All these have happened due to the predatory pricing of the Mukesh Ambani owned Reliance Jio. The whole game plane of Reliance Jio is to wipe out its competitors, which includes the state owned BSNL," BSNL unions said in a joint statement.

All Unions and Associations of BSNL (AUAB) alleged that with its huge financial muscle, Reliance Jio is offering services at 'below-cost' rates. It said that private telecom companies like Aircel, Tata Teleservices, Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Communications and Telenor have already closed their mobile service businesses.

It alleged that Reliance Jio will steeply raise call and data tariffs once the entire competition is wiped out. "It will loot the people by steeply raising the call and data charges. It is a matter of deep concern that, Reliance Jio is being openly patronised by the Narendra Modi government," the statement said.

No immediate comments were received from the Prime Minister's Office. AUAB said the public sector firm has been demanding allotment of 4G spectrum but "the government has turned a deaf ear to this demand, with the ulterior motive of preventing the public sector company from putting up an effective competition to Reliance Jio".

All officers and workers of BSNL are going on an indefinite strike from December 3, 2018, the AUAB said. "Demands of the strike include the immediate allotment of 4G spectrum to BSNL for rolling out its 4G service, implementation of the government rule in respect of payment of pension contribution by BSNL, wage revision of the employees and pension revision of the retirees, from January 1, 2017," the statement said.

It also alleged that whosoever tried to act against Reliance Jio had to pay the price, including former telecom secretary J S Deepak. "JS Deepak wrote to the Trai demanding action on Reliance Jio, for adopting predatory pricing. As a result, JS Deepak was instantaneously shunted out of the DoT... This was a clear signal given by the Narendra Modi government, as to what would happen to any one who dares to speak against Rliance Jio," the unions alleged.

Deepak was named India's Ambassador to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) when he was abroad to attend the Mobile World Congress 2017 in Spain. The unions said that BSNL was in a loss of more than Rs 8,800 crore in 2011-12 but due to the combined efforts taken by the employees and the management, the PSU posted an operating profit of Rs 672.57 crore in 2014-15.

"BSNL's improved performance is reflected in the expansion of it's customer base also. It must be remembered that all these achievements are made by BSNL without 4G technology and with only 2G and 3G technologies, while all the private companies are armed with 4G technology," the statement said.

Apart from the allotment of 4G spectrum, the AUAB is also demanding the implementation of the government's rule in the matter of BSNL's payment of pension contribution.

"It is atrocious that, the Narendra Modi government is violating it's own rule, and is fleecing a huge amount from BSNL every year, in the name of Pension Contribution. This is seriously affecting the financial health of the Company," the unions said.

State-owned ITI Ltd will have an opportunity to participate in two large tenders of BSNL by March-end, as part of procurement quota approved by the Cabinet recently, a top BSNL official said. The Union Cabinet earlier this month had approved the continuation of quota for state-owned ITI Ltd in procurement made by three telecom firms — BSNL, Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) and Bharat Broadband Network Ltd (BBNL), a move aimed at strengthening ITI's order book and improving its financial health.

"There are two immediate tenders on the anvil, apart from many others that are continuing. One of them is a contract for supply of GPON (Gigabit-capable Passive Optical Networks) equipment under the second phase of Bharat Net project," BSNL Chairman and Managing Director Anupam Shrivastava told PTI.

The contract, valued at roughly Rs 400 crore, will offer ITI Ltd the opportunity to qualify for a 20 per cent share, Shrivastava said. Another contract, multi-service access node (MSAN), will emerge as early as next month.

"This is a tender where we procure hardware equipment for storage, so that work we are going to give to ITI. The tender for this is likely to be out in December," he said, adding that the contract in its entirety will be valued at Rs 300 crore, of which ITI can qualify for 20 per cent.

The two projects are in addition to those that are already on, and where ITI is participating, he added. The recent Cabinet nod on continuation of procurement quota policy for ITI Ltd entails reserving 30 per cent of the procurement orders placed by BSNL, MTNL and BBNL for the products manufactured by the state-owned telecom equipment maker.

The procurement quota also includes 20 per cent of the orders for the turnkey projects (such as GSM network roll-out, Wi-Fi of BSNL and MTNL and BharatNet project network roll-out of BBNL).

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