With its revival plans yet to gain momentum, beleaguered telecom operator Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) is now pinning its hopes on ₹20,000-crore of dues from Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to save the day.

According to sources close to the development, the salaries and pension contribution of officers who were deputed to DoT by BSNL were to be footed by DoT. However, these were paid from BSNL’s account.

DoT also owes BSNL dues under various heads such as Reimbursement of leave encashment for the PSU’s staff for the period they worked with DoT, support for rural telephony and interest on surrendered WiMax spectrum. Other dues include cost of surrendered CDMA spectrum, excess pension contribution paid, payment for government projects, building rents and telecom charges for service provided to DoT among others.

“These bills are running up to more than ₹20,000 crore since 2000. The dues pending from DoT was discussed at All Unions and Associations of BSNL (AUAB) meeting last week, and it was decided to seek this on a priority basis from DoT. The amount, if it comes in, could be used for BSNL’s revival,” one of the sources said. The pending payment will be one of the major themes for agitations by the unions in the coming days, while they have called for a meeting on July 1 to decide on a ‘Charter of Demands’ to help revive the firm.

Cost cutting measures

Earlier, a BSNL officers’ group had sought the withdrawal of 200 excess Principal General Managers and General Managers posted on deputation from DoT to the company, citing “huge liabilities” to the PSU.

In October 2019, the Union Cabinet approved a ₹69,000-crore revival package for BSNL (and MTNL), including a Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS), monetisation of assets, providing sovereign guarantee for bonds for funds to be raised by the firms.

While BSNL provided VRS to about 79,000 employees, monetisation of assets, guarantee for fund raising and its 4G plans are yet to take off. Worse, the salaries of employees are also delayed by almost a month. Following the VRS, BSNL had outsourced the maintenance of its landline and broadband connections. However, a huge number of connections were shut down due to poor maintenance.