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Finance and Communication ministries collaborate on BSNL-MTNL asset disposal

The Finance Ministry has joined hands with the Communication Ministry in the disposal of BSNL and MTNL assets. This is in response to a communication from Telecom Secretary Neeraj Mittal, who has written to all the Central Ministries and Departments and State governments.

The value of total assets of BSNL and MTNL is over ₹1.26 lakh crore and over ₹12,000 crore, respectively, as on March 31, 2022. The area of land owned by BSNL and MTNL is approximately 10,568 acres and 334.36 acres, respectively.

“BSNL has an asset base spread over the country and MTNL has properties located in Delhi and Mumbai. Most of the properties are offered through outright sale to Government Departments/PUSs/Government Organisations,” Mittal said in a letter.

It also said that vacant building spaces are offered for rent in premises situated at prime locations all over India. The spaces are ideally suited for banks, institutions, autonomous bodies, etc. Monetisation is being done through the online platform of MSTC. Meanwhile, there is no indication that there will be any discount for Ministries and Departments, and every deal will be at market price. Still, the thinking is that a transparent and direct deal would help all.

The government has taken various steps for the revival of BSNL and MTNL. Last June, as part of the revival strategy, the Union Cabinet approved the third revival package for BSNL with the total outlay of ₹89,047 crore. It includes allotment of 4G/5G spectrum for BSNL through equity infusion. The authorised capital of BSNL will be increased to ₹2.10-lakh crore from ₹1.50-lakh crore. With this revival package, BSNL will emerge as a stable telecom service provider focused on providing connectivity to the remotest parts of India.

In 2019, the first revival package amounted to around ₹69-thousand crore that brought down the operating costs of BSNL/MTNL. In 2022, the government approved the second revival package for BSNL/MTNL amounting to ₹1.64-lakh crore. It focused on infusing fresh capital, restructuring debt, viability gap funding for rural telephony, etc. It provided financial support for capex, viability gap funding for rural landlines, financial support for de-stressing the balance sheet, and settlement of AGR dues, merger of BBNL with BSNL, etc. The packages helped to lower the total debt of BSNL to ₹22,289 crore from ₹32,944 Crore.

The government claims that as a result of these packages, BSNL/MTNL have started earning operating profits from FY 2020-21. BSNL/MTNL are rolling out an indigenously developed 4G telecom stack. The equipment is upgradable to 5G. As part of the revival strategy, BSNL/MTNL are focusing on home fibre connections. More than 34 lakh home fibre connections have been provided as on date.

As on March 31, 2023, BSNL and MTNL have total 58,277 and 3,397 employees, respectively. The Hindu BusinessLine

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