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BSNL vendors seek Centre’s support to clear wages of 2 lakh employees

India’s domestic telecom gear makers and suppliers have sought the intervention of Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal and Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad for the release of Rs 20,000 crore in dues from state-controlled Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), Bharat Broadband Network Limited (BBNL) and Indian Telephone Industries (ITI) to clear wages of nearly 2 lakh employees amid lockdown.

In an emailed letter to Prasad dated March 30, the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s senior director Yogesh Srivastav said that the outstanding payments from state-run BSNL at a time of complete shutdown following Coronavirus or Covid-19 pandemic could be a death knell to the Indian telecom equipment manufacturing industry.

In addition to close to Rs 6,000 crore outstanding of local gear companies, the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) has more than Rs 1,000 crore worth of pending dues on state-run companies in the telecom sector.

Meanwhile, on Monday, BSNL has released a sum of more than Rs 500 crore to stressed domestic firms.

Separately, in a video-conferencing with Goyal on Tuesday, another Delhi-based trade group, Telecom Exports Promotion Council (Tepc) raised similar concerns.

Tepc co-chairman Sandeep Aggarwal said that during the current crisis, it has become imperative to stand by the employees and their families, and that essentially requires stable cash flow.

“Nearly Rs 6,000 crore as a part of capital expenditure has been blocked by public sector companies, and in the difficult times, at least a partial payment should be released by the government to public-owned firms so that it could provide much impetus to the domestic sector,” Aggarwal added.

However, the public sector firms owe nearly Rs 20,000 crore against invoices, and according to the Delhi-based group, if only Rs 8,000 crore is made available, then the outstanding cycle would also eventually reduce to as low as 90 days.

Several domestic firms and multinational vendors such as Sterlite Technologies, Vihaan Networks Limited (VNL), Aksh OptiFibre and Paramount Wires & Cables Limited (PWCL) as well as Finnish Nokia, Chinese ZTE and UTStarcom have been seeking the release of their dues since March 2019.

The state-driven BSNL, despite financial crisis, has though released a part payment early this year to most of these partner firms facing operational challenges, but the Coronavirus outbreak and subsequent lockdown have further added to their woes.

Last week, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has announced Rs 1.70 lakh crore worth of relief package under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana and offered a three-month moratorium on term-loans to individuals but industry executives believe that the Narendra Modi government needs to do more for the domestic sector in the current situation.

India is under a 21-day lockdown since March 24 to prevent community transmission of Covid-19 epidemic.

―Gadgets Now

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