Since its independence, successive governments have entrusted Public Sector Units (PSUs) to advance the economic condition of India. But, rather than becoming the engine of economic growth, these PSUs have become the primary destination of economic backwardness.
Lack of accountability and unlimited government resources have turned them into a loss-making industry. These PSUs have become the final destination of burning public money. The Government infuses lakhs of crores on these PSUs to revive them. But, rather than becoming the primary source of asset generation, they have become a burden on the nation.
Ashwini Vaishnaw’s last warning to BSNL employees
Of the total 348 PSUs, BSNL is one of the major loss-making public companies that have constantly engulfed people’s resources. Every year, the government allots a separate budget to revive them. But, rather than correcting their functioning, they eat all the money and again ask for money to run in the next financial year. However, it seems the government has now resorted to correcting its functioning.
Reports suggest that the Minister of Communications, Electronics and Information Technology Ashwini Vaishnaw interacting with 62,000 employees of BSNL has asked them to work hard or leave the organisation by taking Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS).
Citing PM’s stern warning, the Minister said, “this will be the new normal that we have to work with, perform or perish. I will measure the Key Performance Indicators, the performance, and the results, every month. Those who don’t work can go home by taking VRS”.
Warning after Rs 1.64 lakh crore revival package
The warning has come after a week of the announcement of a Rs 1.64 lakh crore revival package for BSNL. On 27 July 2022, PM Modi’s chaired Union Cabinet approved the revival package of BSNL amounting to Rs 1.64 lakh crores. The package has been announced to help “BSNL to improve the quality of their existing services, roll out 4G services and become financially viable”.
In another important decision, the Union Cabinet chaired by PM Shri @narendramodi Ji approved the revival package of BSNL amounting to ₹1.64 Lakh crores. This will help BSNL to improve the quality of their existing services, roll out 4G services and become financially viable.
— Amit Shah (@AmitShah) July 27, 2022
Reports suggest that the revival package of Rs 1.64 lakh crore is planned in a phased manner. For the upgradation of BSNL services, the government would allocate spectrum in the 900 MHz and 1800 MHz frequencies at the cost of Rs 44,993 crore through equity infusion. Further, the capital expenditure of Rs 22,472 crore would be allotted for the deployment of the 4G stack. In addition to that, Rs 13,789 crore viability gap funding would be allocated for the operation of commercial un-viable rural projects between the Finacial Year 2015 and 2020.
To de-stress the balance sheet of the company, the central government will provide a sovereign guarantee to BSNL and MTNL to raise Rs 40,399 crore through long-term bonds. The government will also convert the Adjusted Gross Revenue dues of Rs 33,404 crore into equity and help them to settle dues. Further, a preference share of Rs 7,500 crore will be re-issued to the government.
Why does the Government constantly trust the dying BSNL?
Earlier in October 2019, the government had allocated a Rs 70,000 crore revival package for monetisation of assets, raising funds, and a voluntary retirement scheme for employees of BSNL. Despite the infusion of public money, BSNL has constantly incurred financial losses to the country.
However, unlike other PSUs, the government is very reluctant to start the disinvestment of BSNL. Reports suggest that the reluctance lies in the strategic importance of the company.
Under the Digital India mission, the government announced the Bharat Net Project in 2015 to connect all 250,000 Gram Panchayats with optical fiber. Rural broadband connectivity is an ambitious project of the Modi government. Due to commercial un-viability private players are reluctant to operate there.
Consequently, the government hopes to reach every corner of the country through the BSNL. Reports suggest that nearly 36% of BSNL’s optical fiber customers are in rural areas and due to the un-affordability, the company incurred huge losses. Similarly, in other rural, border, and Naxal-affected areas, BSNL provides strategic operational importance. That’s why the government is heavily investing in the revival of BSNL.
Although these are positive thoughts of the government. But, lifelong investment in a totally corrupt, commercially paralyzed, and unaccountable company cannot be allowed. A company’s existence lies in its ability to earn a profit, but the Sarkari culture has deeply strangulated that ability. So, Ashwini Vaishnaw’s blunt warning to BSNL reflects similar thinking. The employees of BSNL should either leave the company or ‘the Sarkari attitude’. They cannot be allowed to eat the precious wealth of the nation.
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