BSNL employees call strike from Dec 3, allege govt is patronising Reliance Jio

Last Updated: Thu, Nov 29, 2018 19:20 hrs
A woman speaks on her mobile phone in front of the logo of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) painted on a wall outside its office in Kolkata

The employees association of state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited have planned an indefinite strike from December 3. All Unions and Associations of BSNL, an umbrella organisation in a joint statement have alleged that the government is patronising Mukesh Ambani owned Reliance Jio.

"As of now, the whole telecom industry is gripped with a crisis...All these have happened due to the predatory pricing of the Mukesh Ambani owned Reliance Jio. The whole game plane of Reliance Jio is to wipe out its competitors, which includes the state owned BSNL," BSNL unions said in the joint statement.

All Unions and Associations of BSNL (AUAB) alleged that Reliance Jio, thanks to it financial muscle is offering services at 'below-cost' rates. The statement further said that private telecom companies like Aircel, Tata Teleservices, Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Communications and Telenor have already shut their mobile service businesses owing to such pricing strategies.

It also alleged that Reliance Jio will steeply raise call and data tariffs once the entire competition is wiped out. "It will loot the people by steeply raising the call and data charges. It is a matter of deep concern that, Reliance Jio is being openly patronised by the Narendra Modi government," the statement said.

The employee unions claimed that the government has not allotted spectrum for 4G services to BSNL in order to prevent it from competing against Reliance Jio.

AUAB said the public sector firm has been demanding allotment of 4G spectrum but "the government has turned a deaf ear to this demand, with the ulterior motive of preventing the public sector company from putting up an effective competition to Reliance Jio".

"Demands of the strike include the immediate allotment of 4G spectrum to BSNL for rolling out its 4G service, implementation of the government rule in respect of payment of pension contribution by BSNL, wage revision of the employees and pension revision of the retirees, from January 1, 2017," the statement said.

Apart from the allotment of 4G spectrum, the AUAB is also demanding the implementation of the government's rule in the matter of BSNL's payment of pension contribution.

It also alleged that whosoever tried to act against Reliance Jio had to pay the price, citing the example of former telecom secretary J S Deepak.

"JS Deepak wrote to the Trai demanding action on Reliance Jio, for adopting predatory pricing. As a result, JS Deepak was instantaneously shunted out of the DoT... This was a clear signal given by the Narendra Modi government, as to what would happen to any one who dares to speak against Reliance Jio," the unions alleged.

"It is atrocious that, the Narendra Modi government is violating it's own rule, and is fleecing a huge amount from BSNL every year, in the name of Pension Contribution. This is seriously affecting the financial health of the Company," the unions said.

The unions said that BSNL was in a loss of more than Rs 8,800 crore in 2011-12 but due to the combined efforts taken by the employees and the management, the PSU posted an operating profit of Rs 672.57 crore in 2014-15. "BSNL's improved performance is reflected in the expansion of it's customer base also. It must be remembered that all these achievements are made by BSNL without 4G technology and with only 2G and 3G technologies, while all the private companies are armed with 4G technology."

So far there are no comments from the Prime Minister's Office, Reliance Jio or the telecom ministry on the allegations.

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