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With BSNL, govt has addressed the elephant in the room

PW Bureau

With annual losses widening to Rs 31,287 crore at the end of 2017-18, the government’s instruction to BSNL came after a meeting of top BSNL officials with telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan New Delhi: The government has finally asked the ailing state-run telecoms firm, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL), to consider all possibilities, including closure and a revival plan aimed at disinvestment. With annual losses widening to Rs 31,287 crore at the end of 2017-18, the government’s instruction to BSNL came after a meeting of top BSNL officials with telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan, sources said.

Early retirement plans, voluntary retirement scheme for employees

BSNL Chairman Anupam Shrivastava made a presentation to Sundararajan, providing details of the telecoms firm financial report and accumulated losses after Reliance Jio’s entry into the sector. He also presented possible early retirement plans and a voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) for the company’s workers. The government, while exploring possibilities for revival, also asked BSNL about an analysis if its business was shut down. Sources said BSNL was required to submit a “comparative analysis of all options available with the government, i.e. strategic disinvestment of BSNL, closure or revival with financial support.”

BSNL mulls voluntary retirement for ageing workforce

Apart from competition, BSNL pointed at the company’s large ageing manpower which they said was troublesome. The firm also considered reducing this, either by bringing down the retirement age from 60 years to 58 years or through VRS. “If the age of superannuation is reduced from 2019-20, there would be savings of approximately Rs 3,000 crore in the wage bill.” For VRS, BSNL spoke about targeting employees aged 56-60, making 67,000 employees eligible for the scheme. “Assuming 50 percent of these employees (33,846) opt for VRS, this shall result in a saving of Rs 3,000 crore in salary bill. The ex-gratia shall vary from Rs 6,900 crore to Rs 6,300 crore for various fitment.” BSNL also recommended the monetisation of its large land-bank and buildings holding, and said it would be worth around Rs 15,000 crore. The company added that the monetisation plan could be possible in the coming 2-3 years by the Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM).