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Jio’s Predatory Pricing Has Left Telcos Bleeding: BSNL Unions

In a letter written to minister of state for communication Manoj Sinha, unions in BSNL have said Reliance Jio has left the state-owned company bleeding. The letter was sent following the current cash crisis in BSNL due to which salaries across the country have been held up.

The letter, dated March 11, says predatory pricing by Reliance Jio has left the entire telecom sector stressed. The losses of other companies are much more than that of BSNL. The other operators except BSNL are losing customers in lakhs, says the letter written by All India Unions and Associations of BSNL (AUAB), a joint forum of all trade unions operating in the telecom company. A copy of the letter has been shared on social media with TOI.

The letter further says even without 4G, BSNL’s services have been much better than that of other operators. However, non-payment of dues, which includes that towards vendors in the last few months, has led to a major setback.

Power bills, maintenance charges to vendors, wages and rent for vehicles have not been paid on a regular basis for last few months. This has led to a gradual deterioration in BSNL’s services, says the letter. The unions have pointed out that vendors and laborers cannot be expected to stay with the BSNL for long if their dues are not cleared. Other companies, on the other hand, are managing the situation by infusing huge amounts of funds.

The letter says the unions have learnt that a proposal put up by BSNL board to avail loans for meeting its operational expenses is lying with the government. Unless the proposal is approved, the company will not have funds to carry out its day-to-day working. Prolonged delay can only be disastrous. Revival of BSNL has to start with proper maintenance of the network and providing quality services. Once customers leave due to poor services, it would be very difficult to get them back, says the letter.

Meanwhile, at Nagpur, sources said, the centre’s losses are in the range of Rs50 crore. The Nagpur office too had failed to pay electricity bills for its exchanges. The power bills running up to Rs60 lakh for the exchange at Civil Lines was paid a few days ago. Bills for other exchanges like Sakkardara and Itwari too have to be cleared before March 20. Power supply to exchanges in remote areas like Gadchiroli was snapped and restored only after payment of the bills. The uncertainty continues, said sources.

Union leaders here said the beginning of BSNL’s gradual decline began during the UPA government. A Raja, the then minister for communication, had stalled BSNL’s proposal to install 20 crore new lines. This was meant to install capacity to provide 20 crore new connections. However, the tender process could not take off due to reluctance of the ministry. Things further deteriorated when BSNL was not given 4G spectrum, finally leading to the cash crunch.―Times Of India

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