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In protest against the delay in execution of the government's ₹69,000 crore revival package, BSNL employee union called for a nationwide hunger strike on Monday, January 24.
"The All Unions and Associations of BSNL (AUAB) is organising a country-wide hunger strike on February 24, 2020. This hunger strike is being organised to demand the expeditious implementation of the Union Cabinet's revival package in respect of BSNL, as well as to demand settlement of the grievances of the employees," The Hindu quoted AUAB as saying in a statement.
The AUAB had organised nationwide lunch-hour demonstrations on February 11, 2020.
The central government in October last year approved a ₹68,751-crore revival package for loss-making BSNL and MTNL. This included 4G spectrum allocation and voluntary retirement scheme (VRS), and their merger too.
According to AUAB, the revival package feature is the allotment of the 4G spectrum, issuing a sovereign guarantee for raising funds to the tune of ₹15,000 crore - with BSNL's share at ₹8,500 crore and MTNL's at ₹6,500 crore. All of this by way of issuance of long-term bonds, monetisation of assets, and implementation of a VRS. Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had announced in November last year that the two firms will monetise their assets worth ₹37,500 crore in the next three years.
"Out of these, only the VRS has been implemented, through which 78,569 BSNL employees have been sent home. It is extremely disturbing to note that, even after the lapse of nearly four months, the 4G spectrum has not been allotted to BSNL," the statement read.
Moreover, the process of monetisation of BSNL's assets is also moving at snail's pace. The Supreme Court's judgment, with regards to the calculation of the Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR), has caused uncertainties in the telecom sector, leading to the unwillingness of banks in extending the much-needed loans to BSNL.
The BSNL employees' body said that it is understood that BSNL's 4G service may not be launched before the end of 2020 because of the delay in the allotment of the 4G spectrum and also due to the non-availability of funds.
"The delay is much against the spirit of the Union Cabinet, in approving the revival package. The attention of the Telecom Minister has already been drawn into the matter. However, nothing has happened," the statement said.
AUAB has also claimed that employees are not getting salary on time, and contract workers have not been paid their wages for the past 10 months despite the relief package.
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