More than 92,000 employees of BSNL and MTNL have opted for voluntary retirement, Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Wednesday as he asserted that the government will make the two telecom companies profitable as they are strategic assets.
The Communications Minister told the Lok Sabha that the merger of BSNL and MTNL will have a pan-India footprint, synergy in operations, reduction of fixed costs and overheads, among others.
The merger would resultantly help the two companies to "provide better quality services to customers on a pan-India basis," he said.
During the Question Hour, the minister said over 92,000 employees of BSNL and MTNL have opted for Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS).
As part of revival efforts, VRS was introduced for the staff of the two telecom firms and December 3 was the last date for submitting the applications.
The employee costs at both firms are high.
Both companies are strategic assets and the government would make them more professional and profitable, he emphasised.
He also said that whether it is flooded in Kashmir or Tamil Nadu, a cyclone in Odisha, BSNL provides free services.
The Cabinet has approved administrative allotment of spectrum to BSNL and MTNL for providing 4G services.
"With rollout of 4G services on a pan-India basis, BNSL/ MTNL will be able to provide high-speed mobile Internet services in a data-centric market which will further improve the customer experience," the minister said.
MTNL operates in Delhi and Mumbai while BSNL is present in the rest of India.
JD(U) member Rajiv Ranjan Singh raised concerns about call drops and poor connectivity in the national capital, saying that if one tries 50 times on MTNL network, it is only around 5 times the calls get connected.
In response, Prasad said there is a need for a technological upgrade.
To a supplementary by RSP leader N K Premachandran about poor connectivity in the national capital, the minister said installing a mobile tower in Delhi is very difficult and cited that earlier he had found it difficult to even install a tower in Parliament premises.
Separately, Prasad said the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has taken necessary steps and adopted strict norms for safety from Electromagnetic Field (EMF) emission from mobile towers.
"In India, norms for exposure limit for the Radio Frequency Field (Base Station Emissions) have been fixed ten times more stringent than safe limits prescribed by International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) and recommended by World Health Organisation (WHO)," he added.
Shiv Sena member Sadashiv Kisan Lokhande said birds in small villages are getting affected by radiation from mobile towers.
In response, Prasad said birds are healthy and asked whether there is any evidence about the adverse impact on birds.
During the Question Hour, Speaker Om Birla again asked members to ensure that questions, as well as answers by ministers, are kept short so that more supplementaries can be taken up. The matter needs to be discussed, he added.