The employees and the officers of the state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) are launching a nationwide protest against the company's move to reduce retirement age, as they fear privatisation of the ailing telecom behemoth.
A senior company official said that there has been a strong fear among the employees that some private company might take over the loss-ridden state-run enterprise.
"But given the scale and the magnitude of the operations of BSNL, it has to be bifurcated," a highly-placed source confirmed to DH.
In fact, the three-member expert panel tasked with the turn-around of BSNL has recommended various measures intended at breaking down the state-owned corporation into various entities. Out of nine restructuring strategies suggested by the panel, three pertain to the division of the company into various entities, accelerate operationalisation of BSNL Tower Corporation Limited, create separate fiber infrastructure division, and create project division.
While most of the telecom operators in the country are in mobile telephony business, BSNL on other hand is primarily into the land-line segments across the country.
An employee union leader, who spoke to DH on condition of anonymity, said that they have been fearing privatisation for quite some time, adding "But with latest developments, it seems government is pressing for it."
The expert panel has suggested for introducing a VRS and reduction in retirement age to 58, which will result in loss of job for over 54,000 employees. It currently employs 1,74,312 workers.
"It would be women employees mostly, who would be forced to take the VRS," a union leader from AUAB told DH.
Meanwhile, the BSNL Employees Union, a part of AUAB, in its communique to the employees of the company said: "...The government has one more option also. That is to hand over a sizable share of BSNL, to a private company, and to induct that corporate as BSNL’s partner. This is called strategic sale. So, finally, the cat has come out of the bag. The government has made naked of its proposal to close down BSNL or hand it over to some corporates."