Vol. XL No. 50 December 11, 2016

Strike in BSNL on Dec 15 to Defeat Govt’s Nefarious Plan to Fragment BSNL

P Abhimanyu

THE entire employees and officers of BSNL are going on a one day strike on December 15, 2016. This struggle is against the government’s move to finish off BSNL, by fragmenting it into pieces. The ministry of communications has sent a cabinet note, for forming a subsidiary company to manage BSNL’s mobile towers. If the cabinet approves it, BSNL’s 65,000 mobile towers will be hived off to the new subsidiary tower company. The entire trade unions of BSNL are opposing this move.

Right from the inception of BSNL, the successive governments that came to power have made several attempts to disinvest/privatise the company. However, the entire trade unions of BSNL have frustrated those attempts through their united struggles. Hence, the government has come out with a new idea to achieve its goal of privatising BSNL. The arguments in favour of this fragmentation are as follows:-

·                     The tower business is a very profitable business in the telecom industry. However, BSNL is not able to take full advantage of its towers and earn maximum profit. If a separate company is formed, the management can focus in the tower business, and also the towers can be managed more efficiently and profit can be maximised.

·                     BSNL is running into loss, because of its huge amount of depreciation. For the year 2015–16, the amount of depreciation is Rs 8,816 crore. It is argued that, after formation of a subsidiary tower company, a sizeable part of this depreciation will go into the accounts of the subsidiary tower company. As a result of this, the chances of BSNL’s becoming a profit making company will also brighten.   

It is a misleading and deceptive argument that, the tower business will become more profitable, if a subsidiary tower company is formed. As per the proposal of the government, the subsidiary tower company will also be run by officers and employees, to be redeployed from BSNL. If the same officers and employees can manage the tower business more profitably in the subsidiary tower company, they can do it without the formation of subsidiary tower company also. Hence, there is no justification for the formation of a subsidiary tower company.

It is known to everyone that BSNL has gone into loss only because of the anti-BSNL and pro-private policies of the government. As per the statement of the former telecom minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, BSNL was not allowed to expand its networks for almost 10 years by the UPA regime. It is completely true. One after another, the tenders floated by BSNL to procure mobile equipments were cancelled by the government during the UPA regime. It is only because of this reason, BSNL’s growth got crippled and it went into loss. Saying that the huge amount of ‘depreciation’ is the reason for BSNL’s loss, is unacceptable. Already BSNL has started showing very good improvement, due to the combined efforts being taken by the management and the employees. During the six months preceding September 2016, BSNL has given the highest number of mobile connections in five months. The company has already earned an operating profit of Rs 3,854 crore. It is for sure that BSNL will once again become a profit making company, even without formation of a subsidiary tower company.

It is very important to note that, BSNL is the only PSU in the telecom industry, which remains a 100 percent government company. VSNL has already been privatised. MTNL has already been disinvested to the extent of 46.5 percent. Hence, the government desperately wants to start disinvestment in BSNL. Formation of subsidiary tower company is nothing but a backdoor method to privatise BSNL.

The employees are not prepared to believe the sweet words of the government that the subsidiary tower company will be a 100 percent government company, and that it will be fully owned by the BSNL. The policy of the present government is to privatise the public sector companies as soon as possible. It is an open secret that the fulltime job of the NITI Aayog is to prepare the blue print for the privatisation of the public sector companies. If the subsidiary tower company is allowed to be formed, very soon strategic sale will take place in it, and a private partner will be inducted. Thereafter, days will not be far off, for the total privatisation of the subsidiary tower company. In the present scenario, BSNL’s mobile towers are its life line. If BSNL’s towers are snatched away from it, then the company will die its natural death. Hence, the entire trade unions of BSNL have decided not to allow the government to rob BSNL of its precious mobile towers.

Since the formation of BSNL, the united trade union movement has been consistently fighting to save BSNL from the onslaughts of the government. The employees have successfully stopped the steps taken by the government for unbundling, disinvestment, VRS, etc. In the present context also, the employees will certainly defeat the game plan of dismantling BSNL through formation of subsidiary tower company.