State-owned provider Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) has escalated its conflict with the government following a two-day strike last week with an order to the heads of each circle instructing them: ‘Not to carry out any work on behalf of the Department of Telecommunication (DoT) without receipt of written sanctions from the DoT and without advance payment for carrying out such work.’ The Business Standard writes that the ailing telco has drawn a line in the sand, claiming that unpaid bills from the government amount to more than INR3 billion (USD46.99 million). An internal memo sent to the operator’s Chief General Managers, noted that: ‘BSNL is, on one hand, taking loans for undertaking capital works and is paying interest on such loan amounts and on the other hand there is no reimbursement for the works executed on behalf of the DoT. This situation leads to the double financial burden on BSNL.’ As reported by CommsUpdate, BSNL’s unions held a two-day strike last week over the government’s failure to act to revive the loss-making operator.
In a related development, senior BSNL officials are set to meet with members of parliament and representatives of various communities from across the country to discuss the provider’s performance, the Economic Times reports. A statement issued by the DoT noted that the: ‘Telecom Ministry will hold such meetings of all the interested parties to expedite the process of improving the quality and reach of telecom signal from BSNL.’ The meeting is somewhat at cross purposes, however. Whilst BSNL officials have been keen to discuss the operator’s financial troubles with MPs for some time, the politicians and members of the public are approaching the meeting with a view to resolving various quality of service (QoS) issues and shortcomings in coverage, all of which would require further spending from the struggling telco to fix.