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Sarkari BSNL Unable To Connect To Govt.

From the hilly and almost inaccessible terrains of Ladakh to the dense rainforests of the North East, if you can connect with your near and dear ones, it is only because of BSNL or Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited.

The premier cellular service provider, which has been connecting India for many decades, is now in the news, for mostly wrong reasons. Such was the discussion surrounding BSNL that it became one of the rallying points during the election campaign, fo.llowing the news break that it was planning to lay off around 54,000 of its employees. Its total staff strength is in excess of 1.76 lakh.

Opposition parties blamed Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government for the downturn of BSNL. However, speaking to multiple people associated with BSNL (serving and retired), as also the other representatives from various telcos, it comes out that a gamut of factors have led to BSNL’s fall from grace.

Where it all began

The public sector telecom company is India’s oldest communication service provider. Its history can be traced back to the British era. During the British era, the first telegraph line was established between then Calcutta and Diamond Harbour. The East India Company started using the telegraph in 1851. In 1885, the Indian Telegraph Act was passed by the British Imperial Legislative Council. Aer the bifurcation of Post and Telegraph Department in the 1980s, the creation of the Department of Telecom by 1990s eventually led to the emergence of the State-owned telegraph and telephone company BSNL.

Where it stands

Unlike other public sector undertakings, BSNL hasn’t been impacted by dwindling cash reserves. However, the company has been hit by mounting losses over the years. The losses during the financial year 2017-18 stood at a whopping Rs 7,995.6 crore, almost double the amount of losses (Rs 4,793.21 crore) clocked in 2016-17.

BSNL is expected to post a loss of Rs 14,000 crore in 2018-19 and lower revenues of around Rs 19,000 crore, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said.

The company, which is currently going through its worst financial crisis, defaulted in paying salaries for the first time in February this year and has been on a declining path ever since, despite addition in the number of subscribers.

In the wake of the February salary issue, Kotak Equities had said BSNL’s total loss may have crossed a whopping Rs 90,000 crore. The last time BSNL witnessed profits was a decade ago in 2008-09 when it clocked an annual profit of Rs 575 crore.

What led to this state?

So, what happened over the years that BSNL went from black to red? “It has happened because of multiple reasons: Employee ineiciency, neglect by the government and regulator’s partisanship,” a senior BSNL functionary confided.

The ageing BSNL workforce, according to many insiders, has been crippled with a high level of inefficiency. Many say that there is a lack of interest among many of its employees. “Yes, there has been a problem with the sta. They have taken their work for granted,” said one of the many BSNL employees that DH spoke to.

On the other hand, the fear among the employees is that the government is neglecting them, to make the situation conducive to sell it to private players. In fact, be it granting 4G spectrum to BSNL or showing seriousness towards solving the woes of BSNL, the government has been ignoring BSNL to the dismay of its employees, they say.

“The minister has been talking about giving all possible support to us. However, when it comes to the application of it, they haven’t been able to even appoint a CMD for us,” one of the senior BSNL officials told DH.

Representatives from various telcos blamed “partisan behaviour of TRAI in favour of Reliance Jio” that has led to losses for them. The major bone of contention is the rule over allowing Jio to go ahead with penetrative pricing.

As BSNL is quite likely staring at the end of the road, it remains to be seen if what was once a national jewel will continue to ‘Connect India’, or disappear like the dial phone of yore?―Deccan Herald

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