New Delhi: State-run BSNL (Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd) has not received any direction from the DPIIT (Department of Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade) to hold the Rs 9,000-crore tender for procurement of 4G equipment, CMD (Chairman and Managing Director) PK Purwar told PSU Watch on Tuesday. The statement comes as reports in certain sections of the media have claimed that the DPIIT has asked DoT (Department of Telecommunications) and BSNL to put the tender on hold because of some anomalies.
Commenting on the matter, Purwar said, "We have only been asked to send a clarification on the issues raised by DPIIT. No direction has been issued to put the tender on hold as of now." A source, who spoke to PSU Watch on the condition of anonymity, pointed out that the DPIIT cannot issue a direction to hold the tender process. "What it can do is make a recommendation or seek clarification. The order to put the tender process on hold can only come from the DoT," he added.
The matter pertains to a letter sent by TEPC (Telecom Equipment and Services Export Promotion Council), the government body for the promotion of domestic telecom products, equipment, and services, to the DoT and DPIIT in which it alleged that the BSNL tender violates norms for procurement and favours foreign companies.
"BSNL and MTNL are ignoring Public Procurement (Make in India) Order of the government and tender floated has no provision for compliance of the government order," the letter said. It alleged that since public money was being used to revive BSNL, domestic suppliers of telecom network equipment should be encouraged to participate in the tendering process.
In the tender floated by BSNL on March 23, a clause sought bidders to have prior experience of setting up a 20 million subscriber network. This was at the heart of the grievances raised by TEPC which claimed that this would disqualify domestic producers of telecom equipment from submitting a bid.
The March 23 tender is the first tender floated by BSNL since the government shelved a plan to disinvest the state-run company and instead decided to invest Rs 70,000 crore in its revival. BSNL is far behind its competitors in terms of offering 4G services as it had been waiting for a 4G spectrum allocation.
Speaking to PSU Watch, Swapan Chakraborty, Deputy General Secretary of BSNL Employees Union, pointed out that when private sector telecom providers are already procuring telecom equipment from global majors like Nokia and Ericsson, why is the burden of domestic procurement being placed squarely on BSNL?
"Is this what even a level playing field looks like? BSNL is already behind its private competitors in terms of providing 4G services to its customers. And right when the first tender is floated in that direction, issues are being raised to stall it. This has happened before in 2011. And it is happening again. Is this even an issue? Who are private sectors procuring their equipment from? And why is that? Because if you have a certain experience in the business, you can be entrusted with big tasks. Will any of the private operators go for domestic manufacturers if they lacked experience? This order is a big order from BSNL. And it needs to be put in right hands to ensure good service." He added, "There is a corporate lobby behind this which is doing everything it can to hold up the process. This is a repeat of what we have already witnessed before. The lobby will try to stall the tender process, jeopardising BSNL's plan to provide 4G services to its customers. And that will deal a blow to the revival plan."