Efforts are on to revive the public sector BSNL and MTNL and make them professional, the government informed Rajya Sabha on Thursday while noting that the VRS scheme for existing employees is receiving an encouraging response.
Communications minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said a total of 79,000 employees of BSNL and 14,000 out of 20,000 employees of MTNL have applied for the VRS scheme which the government has come out with to reduce the employee cost in these PSUs which is currently very high as compared to the industry.
"BSNL and MTNL are the strategic assets for the country and in case of earthquake, cyclone or defence purposes they come forward proactively to help citizens. Therefore, we have decided to revive them," he told the Rajya Sabha.
"We want to revive them and make them professional," he said.
"Till date, 79,000 people have applied for VRS in BSNL and 14,000 out of total 20,000 employees in MTNL have applied for VRS. We will ensure that they get the best VRS package," he said.
Replying to supplementaries the minister said the Cabinet in its meeting on October 23, 2019 approved the revival plan for BSNL which includes measures to reduce the staff cost by offering Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) to employees of age 50 years and above.
"Accordingly, BSNL has launched 'BSNL Voluntary Retirement Scheme-2019' on November 4, 2019 which is open till December 3, 2019," he said in his written reply.
Prasad said the employee cost in BSNL was 75.06 per cent while that in MTNL was 87.15 per cent, against 2.95 per cent for Airtel, 5.59 per cent for Vodafone and 4.27 per cent for Jio and the government has come out with an attractive VRS package.
On whether the government will pay dues of contractual employees in BSNL/MTNL, the minister said "as far as contract employees are concerned, they are employees of the contractor and the obligation to pay salaries is that of the contractor."
To a question on the Ministry pruning 30 per cent of contract staff in BSNL to address financial problems, Prasad said Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) outsources specific works to contractors who engage contract workers for the said works.
In view of the strained financial condition, BSNL decided to implement various austerity measures which include reducing expenditure for different outsourcing works, he said, adding that these include works for house-keeping, security and certain repair and maintenance works.
On revising the age for VRS, Prasad said "though the government has taken the decision, the option is open".
"My stress is to revive BSNL/MTNL and efforts are on to revive them first," he said.
The minister also said 4G services have also been given to BSNL to make them competent. "We will walk an extra mile to make BSNL competitive".
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