Ministerial group to consider BSNL stake sale, employees call off strike

21 Apr 2010

The Indian government has said that it will refer the matter of divestment of a stake in state-owned telco Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) to a Group of Ministers (GoM), the Business Standard is reporting. The move comes on the same day that employees at the operator had commenced an indefinite strike undertaken to highlight concerns over lack of involvement in any possible stake sale; reassurances from communications minister Andimuthu Raja that employees would be consulted however saw the strike abandoned before the end of its first full day. ‘We have assured BSNL unions that the issue of disinvestment will be referred to a GoM and they would be consulted before taking other decisions with regard to the company,’ Mr Raja said, while VAN Namboodiri, convener of the Joint Action Committee of BSNL Associations and Unions, noted: ‘After the minister’s assurance that unions will be consulted before any final decision on disinvestment and other issues, we decided to call off our strike.’ A committee chaired by Sam Pitroda, infrastructure advisor to the Prime Minister, had previously suggested that a 30% stake in BSNL could be sold in phases, while a voluntary retirement scheme affecting some 100,000 staff members has also been mooted.

The communications minister has reportedly also directed the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to resolve the issue relating to revision of pay scale of non-executives and implementation of promotion policy for them within 15 days, while BSNL has been given the go-ahead to procure ten million GSM mobile lines immediately.