New Delhi: The stalling of a project started by the government way back in 2014 to connect uncovered villages has resulted in a delay in salaries at equipment vendors of state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL). Two firms that had won gear supply contracts from BSNL for the ambitious telecom connectivity project, Vihaan Networks Ltd (VNL) and Himachal Futuristic Communications Ltd (HFCL), employs around 3,000 people directly and 5,000 indirectly.
A source from the company said, “For the last several months, we are getting our salaries delayed by almost two-to-three weeks with the company sitting idle on one of our important telecom connectivity programs, it had won more than a year ago from BSNL.” The person added that payments for field manpower have been continually delayed.
The news comes a month after BSNL failed to pay salaries to its own employees for the month of February.
HFCL says no delay in payment
An official statement released by HFCL founder Mahendra Nahata, however, denied that there had been a delay in the payment of salaries to employees. The government had appointed BSNL for the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF)-driven contract for connecting the remote villages located along the sensitive China border in Arunachal Pradesh as well as Assam.
According to sources in the company, they have taken bank credit, furnished bank guarantees (BG) as well as moved locally-made equipment to some sites, but there is no work at the project and therefore no payments have been made either.
The fate of villages along China border hang in balance
In January 2018, a deal was signed between the USOF and BSNL under which work mobile tower deployment under the Northeast-I initiative was supposed to “immediately start” but it did not release any advance as per the agreement that stated it to be paid within the two weeks.
According to an official, a public interest litigation (PIL) was filed on the matter in the Delhi High Court and is now in appeal before the Supreme Court. However, as the court is yet to give a direction on the matter, mobile connectivity in remote villages in Arunachal Pradesh and Assam continues to hang in the balance.