The survival crisis faced by Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) is well known, and the story of Gujarat telecom circle of the government-owned telecom entity is no different. It’s state unit is faced a staff shortage of 64.18% as of March 2019, the highest since 2005 when it was 21.8%.
On the vacancy front, against the 32,888 sanctioned posts in all grades across Gujarat, only 11,782 were occupied while 21,106 remained vacant. The 14-year-high staff crunch was revealed in response to an RTI query filed by Mirror.
When it comes to Ahmedabad unit, BSNL’s staff shortage was a meagre 1.51% in 2005, rising to whopping 59.88% in March 2019. Out of the 6,897 sanctioned posts in Ahmedabad as of March 2019, only 2,767 were held by employees across all the four grades.
Nationwide salary payment crisis due to mounting losses and increasing debt in the BSNL was reported across India in February.
Number of BSNL subscribers dipping
A senior Gujarat BSNL official disclosed that in 2010 there were close to 25 lakh landline connections in the state. At present, the figure stands at 9.43 lakh. The broadband connections stand at 3.19 lakh. The Bharat Fibre Broadband service and mobile connections in Gujarat are 21,400 and 50 lakh respectively.
Officials deny staff crunch
Jay Sutaria, DGM (Admn), BSNL Ahmedabad, denied that staff shortage exits. He said, “We had 5 lakh telecom connections earlier in the city, which have reduced to 2.4 lakh. We have decreased the size of the staff accordingly. At Ahmedabad BSNL, we are facing a problem of excess staff, due to which the government is proposing a Voluntary Retirement Scheme.” The organisation faced transient crisis in February, which has been resolved, he claimed.
Dr Pradeep Kumar Hota, Chief General Manager, Gujarat BSNL, while denying shortage of staff in Gujarat, explained, “BSNL revenues have decreased since private companies decreased their tariffs. A nationwide crisis resulted due to revenues not keep pace with expenditure towards maintenance of infrastructure and staff cost. The decreasing number of landline connections did not help BSNL either.”
He said it was imperative to increase the subscriber base for BSNL to survive and efforts are being made in that direction.
He said, “We will further reduce the staff to cap the expenditure.”
A BSNL Ahmedabad staffer, working in the customer service section, said on condition of anonymity, “Many people have been laid off. While the workload has not increased significantly, it’s the reducing number of staff members which is burdening the existing employees.”
Another staff member revealed, “Everyone now has a mobile phone, and there are many telecoms providing connections at a cheap rate. A huge chunk of BSNL users have migrated to other service providers, resulting
in the sorry state that BSNL is in. It needs to come up with attractive plans and offers to increase subscriber base.”
Consumers rue poor service
Nawal Singal (50), a businessman who moved to Ahmedabad from Haryana, said, “I wanted a BSNL landline and broadband connection for my home. Despite repeated attempts to contact them in the first week of June, there was no response from their side. Finally, after I tweeted my query, they got back to me saying my work will be done. It’s almost 15 days but it is still pending.”
Jigar Pancholi (33), a businessman residing in Satellite, said, “I used BSNL for a long time, but its services got worse over time and I had to opt for mobile number portability with another service provider. Be it staff behaviour or network issues, dealing with BSNL was always a pain and I am glad I have shifted to other mobile company.”
“I wanted a BSNL landline and broadband connection for my home. Despite repeated attempts to contact them in the first week of June, there was no response from their side.”– Nawal Singal, prospective BSNL consumer
“I used BSNL but its services got worse over time and I had to opt for another mobile company. Be it staff behaviour or network issues, dealing with BSNL was always a pain. “-Jigar Pancholi, erstwhile BSNL user―Ahmedabad Mirror