BSNLEU Conference Vows to Turn BSNL into a Vibrant PSU
THE tenth all India conference of BSNL employees union was held enthusiastically from April 2-4, 2022, at Guwahati. 396 delegates and 143 observers participated in this conference.
BACKDROP OF THE CONFERENCE
In October 2019, the Modi government announced with much pomp and show, a package of Rs 70,000 crore for the revival of BSNL and MTNL. However, till today, this revival package remains only on paper. After the announcement of this revival package, 1,02,000 employees of BSNL and MTNL have been retrenched under VRS. Out of this, the number of employees retrenched in BSNL alone comes to 78, 569. The announcement of the Modi government to allot 4G spectrum to BSNL also remains on paper. Ironically, it is the government which is trying its best to see that BSNL does not start its 4G service.
At least two years ago, BSNL could have started its 4G service by upgrading its existing equipments. However, this was not permitted by the government. Thereafter, the tender floated by BSNL to procure 4G equipments was also cancelled by the government on the plea that, under the ‘Make in India Policy’ BSNL should procure its 4G equipments only from Indian vendors and not from global vendors.
When all the private telecom companies are procuring their equipments from global vendors, denying the same to BSNL is nothing but denial of level playing field. Due to these reasons, BSNL has not been able to start its 4G service till date. This has further aggravated the financial crisis of this public sector company.
In her budget speech, the finance minister, Nirmala Sitharaman has announced that 5G service would be started by private telecom companies in this financial year. Already BSNL is discriminated in 4G technology. Again the same is going to happen in the matter of 5G technology also. This is a glaring example of the pro-private and anti-public sector policies of the Modi government.
In its budget for the year 2021-2022 itself, the government had announced its intention to raise Rs 40,000 crore by way of monetising the mobile towers and optic fibre of BSNL and MTNL. Now, as per the National Monetisation Pipeline, the government has decided to hand over 14, 917 mobile towers of BSNL to private players. This is only the first round. In the next rounds, more mobile towers and optic fibre of BSNL would be handed over to private players. All these underscore the intention of the Modi government to convert BSNL into a sick company and ultimately to hand it over to the corporates.
BSNL is providing service to the common people of this country and also to the people living in the backward as well as in the far flung areas of the country. In December 2021 all the private telecom companies – Jio, Airtel and Vodafone Idea, raised their tariffs from 20 per cent to 25 per cent. However BSNL did not raise its tariffs. Further, it is also true that only because of the presence of BSNL, the private telecom companies have not hiked their tariffs more steeply. Hence, strengthening BSNL as a vibrant public sector company is very much in the interest of the nation and its people. It was in this backdrop, that the tenth all India conference of BSNLEU was held.
K Hemalata, national president, CITU, delivered the inaugural address of the conference. The pro-corporate and anti-working people policies of the Modi government, the attacks that are being unleashed on the public sector, the glorious two day General Strike by the Indian working class and the need to strengthen the unity of the working masses, were highlighted by Hemalata.
This year BSNLEU observed the 40th anniversary of the first General Strike, held on January 19, 1982. In this programme, BSNLEU highlighted the need to strengthen the worker-peasant unity, to fight against the anti-people policies of the government. To achieve this, BSNLEU gave call to collect Rs 5 each from member to be handed over as donation to the All India Agricultural Workers Union.
As per this call, an amount of Rs 1.37 lakh was collected. B Venkat, general secretary, AIAWU, was invited to the all India conference of BSNLEU and an amount of Rs 2 lakhs
was handed over as a donation to the AIAWU. P Abhimanyu, general secretary, announced that fund would be collected from BSNL employees every year and would be donated to the AIAWU. B Venkat addressed the conference, emphasising the urgent need to strengthen the worker-peasant unity.
BSNLEU is affiliated to the Trade Union International (Transports, Ports, Fisheries and Communications). Erdem Ilhami, one of the senior leaders of the TUI (TPFC), had come from Istanbul, Turkey, to participate in BSNLEU’s conference. In his address, Erdem Ilhami explained about the role being played by the WFTU in organising world- wide struggles of the working class. He also spoke on how the US imperialism is posing a serious threat to the world peace. An amount of 700 US dollars was handed over to Erdem Ilhami, as BSNLEU’s contribution to the TUI (TPFC).
In the delegates session, P Abhimanyu, general secretary, presented the report on activities and 91 delegates participated in the deliberations. The conspiracies of the government to create roadblocks in BSNL’s 4G launching, its attacks on the public sector and the looting of the nation’s wealth in the name of the National Monetisation Pipeline, came in for severe criticism from the delegates. The BSNL management was also bitterly criticised for the massive abolition of posts in the name of restructuring, resulting in severe workload and denial of promotions, denial of wage revision, denial of compassionate ground appointments to the families of the employees who had died in harness and other anti-employee measures.
Resolutions were passed demanding immediate launching of BSNL’s 4G service as well as timely launching of 5G service, against the attacks on the public sector, against the National Monetisation Pipeline and against BSNL management’s restructuring of manpower through which thousands of posts have been abolished. Finally, the election of office bearers took place unanimously, with Animesh Mitra as the president and P Abhimanyu as the general secretary.