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Vested interests trying to stall BSNL 4G equipment tender, unions tell PM

Employee unions and associations at BSNL have written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, claiming that vested interests are trying to stall BSNL’s 4G tender

  • It is our considered opinion that the complaint raised by the TEPC is nothing but a ploy to stall the 4G equipment procurement and launching of 4G services by BSNL, said AUAB

  • The TEPC had alleged that the BSNL tender favours multinational companies over domestic manufacturers

New Delhi: Days after the DPIIT (Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade) wrote a letter to state-run BSNL (Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited) seeking clarification on the issues raised by TEPC (Telecom Equipment and Services Export Promotion Council), the unions at the company have written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, claiming that vested interests are trying to stall BSNL’s 4G tender. The TEPC had alleged that the BSNL tender favours multinational companies over domestic manufacturers in violation of the public procurement policy and the spirit of Make in India.

Terming the TEPC letter as a conspiracy to scuttle BSNL’s 4G equipment procurement, the AUAB (All Unions and Associations of BSNL) said, “It is our considered opinion that, the complaint raised by the TEPC is nothing but a ploy to stall the 4G equipment procurement and launching of 4G services by BSNL. We are afraid that, someone in the industry is using these guidelines and such forums as a tool to scuttle the launching of BSNL’s 4G services. BSNL witnessed the same situation earlier also when 93 million line tender was stopped and when M/s Motorola had challenged BSNL’s tender.” 

‘BSNL competitors procuring 4G equipment from MNCs’

“When BSNL’s competitors are procuring world-class 4G equipment from experienced vendors having proven technology, why should BSNL alone be compelled to procure substandard equipment, manufactured by inexperienced vendors, in the name of “Make in India” policy. Even recently, Airtel has awarded a one billion dollar contract to M/s Nokia, for the supply of 4G equipment. The burden of supporting domestic manufacturers cannot be put on the shoulders of BSNL alone, in a highly competitive telecom market,” it added.

The unions say BSNL tender does not violate public procurement policy

“Since BSNL is not supported from USO Fund, or funded by the Govt. of India for this Project and Tender, this Tender and Project does not come under the purview of “Make in India” policy, as per the PMI guidelines. BSNL has proposed to take a loan from the banks and purchase the equipment. As per reports, the TEPC has demanded that bidders from other countries should be excluded from participating in BSNL’s tender. As per clause 10(d) of Public Procurements (Preference to Make in India) Order 2017, which was revised on 28.05.2018, the Nodal Ministry can restrict or exclude only bidders from such of those countries which had not allowed Indian suppliers to participate in the procurement in their countries. In view of this clause, the demand of the TEPC to exclude bidders from other countries is untenable,” the letter said. 

It added that the government can insist only when the project is funded by it, like the LWE project, NOFN project, NFS project etc. “The TEPC was silent when other operators procured the equipment from multinational vendors. If the PMI clause is applicable since 2018, how did the Commerce Ministry allow other operators to purchase the equipment from multinational vendors since 2018? Why the TEPC did not express its protest during those procurements? This establishes the malafide intention of the many players involved in this game, as well as their vested interests,” said the letter. A source at BSNL alleged that the company has raised a loan from the market for the said 4G tender which is at the heart of this controversy.

BSNL may be considering the deadline

Days after receiving a letter from the DPIIT, BSNL is said to be considering extending the deadline for its 4G tender for the procurement of equipment to May 25, sources have told PSU Watch. The tender was the first tender floated by BSNL for putting in place the infrastructure to provide its customers 4G service after the government approved its revival. However, the tender has now become a bone of contention, with the TEPC writing a letter to DPIIT and claiming that it favours multinational companies.

According to the source, BSNL is considering extending the 4G tender deadline because it has received an underwhelming response so far. Additionally, bidders have also sought time because the tender is now being scrutinised by the Ministry of Commerce. 

What does the tender involve?

The tender pertains to the upgradation of 50,000 sites across the country in order to allow BSNL to roll out 4G services. The state-run telecom service provider is four years behind its competitors in providing 4G services to its customers. The service is a must for BSNL’s revival.