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Rs 65,000cr BharatNet tender tweaked, eligibility relaxed, value addition tightened

BSNL has relaxed the eligibility criteria and tightened the domestic value addition norms for companies looking to participate in its Rs 65,000-crore, Phase-III BharatNet project tender.

In certain circles, the financial turnover and net worth of the companies participating in the tender have been relaxed by upto 33% and 30%, respectively. The companies will have to submit a self-declaration regarding local content in their telecom products with a certificate from a cost auditor certifying the claim if bids exceed Rs 10 crore. Besides, there is a mandatory undertaking requirement for companies submitting bids as Class 1 suppliers. These companies have at least 50% local value addition in their equipment.

The project, with an overall outlay of Rs 1.4 trillion, is for the design, supply, construction, and installation of optical fiber cables, switches, routers, and other telecom equipment to connect and upgrade existing 164,000-gram panchayats, as well as connect around 47,000-gram panchayats.

BSNL has also extended the deadline for companies to submit the bids for tender to May 30. When the tender was rolled out in February, the deadline was April 2 to submit the bids. It will hold a doubt clearing workshop with the stakeholders on May 14.

“It is a complex tender for which we received over 4,000 queries. We have replied to every query and amended the norms wherever necessary,” a BSNL official said.

With regard to the eligibility criteria, companies can also participate in consortiums, which can have a cumulative net worth. However, for average annual turnover in the case of a consortium, barring the lead members, which need to meet at least 40-50% of the average annual turnover requirement, the remaining members should have a minimum Rs 50-100 crore turnover during the last three financial years, based on the category of circles bid for.

Average annual turnover for the last three audited financial years, from FY24 or FY23, can be considered. Besides, the companies participating in the tender need to have at least three years of operations in India as on bid submission date as against five years mentioned in the earlier document.

“This is a minimal relaxation in eligibility criteria and it will not make much difference for small companies as the turnover and net worth requirement is still very high in certain circles,” an executive at a local telecom solution provider said.

“Small companies, including a few listed players as well, will not be able to participate in their individual capacity. They will have to join hands with big system integrators for the BharatNet tender,” another executive of a telecom equipment maker said.

On the domestic value addition, BSNL has strengthened the norms by referencing the Department of Telecommunications’ public procurement (preference to Make in India) order 2017. The order contains as many as 36 telecom products and services and works with local value-addition requirements for companies to be preferred bidders.

The companies will have to submit a self-declaration regarding local content in their telecom products with a certificate from a cost auditor certifying the claim if bids exceed Rs 10 crore. Besides, there is a mandatory undertaking requirement for companies submitting bids as Class 1 suppliers. These companies have at least 50% local value addition in their equipment.

Similarly, on the trusted sources, the bidder shall not be in the notified list of designated sources from whom no procurement can be done, the tender said, adding that there will be quality assurance norms and that BSNL will test the equipment.

“The amendment to the BharatNet tender, especially with reference to DoT’s Make in India public procurement policy, is positive, given our focus to be a product nation with Atmanirbharta,” said Rakesh Bhatnagar, director general of Voice of Indian Communication Technology Enterprises (VoICE).

Bhatnagar, however, said the local content requirement should be product specific, as many companies inflate their domestic value addition by including civil work as well.

Among other amendments, BSNL has relaxed penalties on companies for delay in last-mile connectivity beyond 30 days of completion of project work. “A penalty of Rs 100 per day of delay beyond 30 days shall be levied, unless the exemption is given by BSNL on case-to-case basis with proper justification,” the amended clause said. Earlier, the penalty was Rs 1,000 per day. Financial Express

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