Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) Employees Union (EU) on Thursday said that the government of India is promoting Reliance Jio while offering only “lip service” to BSNL. The BSNLEU voiced their concerns following a tweet from Jamyang Tsering Namgyal, MP of Ladakh who said that the government has sanctioned 54 Jio mobile towers for the uncovered rural areas of Ladakh. Namgyal said that the new towers would be covered under the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF), a government initiative designed to provide universal telecom service to all uncovered areas across India.
BSNLEU Says Government Blocked BSNL 4G Tender
The 54 Jio mobile towers are said to be spread across four regions of Ladakh including the Nubra, Leh, Zanskar and Kargil.
“Money will be paid from the USO Fund,” BSNLEU said in the release. “But, the towers will be installed not by BSNL, but by Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio.”
In terms of the regional breakdown, Reliance Jio has been given the nod to set-up seven towers in Nubra, 11 in Zanskar, 17 in Leh and 19 in Kargil.
“It is also important to note that, the same Modi government has blocked BSNL's 4G tender, thus stopping BSNL from rolling out it's 4G service. Everybody think that BSNL is the government service provider. Now, everyone has understand that, Reliance Jio is the government service provider [sic],” BSNLEU said in the release.
Namgyal said in a separate tweet that he had a conversation with Ravi Shankar Prasad, electronics and information technology minister of India over the Reliance Jio expansion. Further, Namgyal said that in the conversation with Prasad, he “ensured him for my personal supervision in installation within a limited span of time.”
BSNL 4G Roll Out Stalled by Vested Interests
Meanwhile, the BSNLEU are holding a countrywide dharna on Friday demanding government action on several measures including the roll out of 4G services.
The BSNLEU said in a separate release on Thursday that the “all out efforts are being taken by vested interests, to scuttle BSNL’s 4G roll out.”
The BSNL tender issued in late March to procure 4G equipment is currently said to be on hold. Crucially, the complaint provided by Telecom Equipments and Services Promotion Council (TEPC) is said to be one of the key reasons for the hold. The BSNLEU highlighted that the objection raised by TEPC is that the operator violates the “Make in India” policy. Further, TEPC is said to have demanded foreign companies be barred from bidding in the BSNL 4G tender.
“When all the private operators are procuring world class 4G equipments from international vendors, why BSNL alone should be compelled to procure equipments from domestic vendors,” P.Abhimanyu, general secretary of BSNLEU, said in the release. “The Indian vendors do not have proven 4G technology. In BSNLEU’s view, the TEPC is nothing but a tool, being used by vested interests, to stall BSNL from procuring 4G equipments. ”
Additionally, the BSNLEU is also demanding that the government should implement the revival package promised in October, 2019. The BSNLEU has also said that the government should pay the salaries of BSNL staff for the month of May and also the 12 month salary dues owed to the contract workers.