The workers of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) have announced that they will strike work on November 15, 2011 to force the management and government to concede to their demands. The issues raised by BSNL workers are of importance for the entire working class and people of our country. They are opposing the moves of the government to privatize and liquidate BSNL, to benefit private monopolies in this fast growing sector. The major private players include Reliance Communications Limited of Mukesh Ambani, Bharti Airtel Limited of Sunil Mittal, Tata Teleservices of the Tata group, and Idea controlled by a joint venture of the Tata group and Aditya Birla group. The workers of BSNL have pointed out that the 2G scam has confirmed how the big private monopolies have been dictating the Telecom policy of the government for their own benefit.
The management of BSNL and government has launched a so-called Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) with the aim of forcibly retiring over one lakh BSNL employees. This is being done in the name of the company incurring losses. Opposing this, the workersof BSNL have pointed out that the government has perfected the art of turning profit making public sector companies into loss making ones, and then using this as a justification to privatise these companies.
This has happened with Modern Foods, BALCO and VSNL. Whenever the big private monopolies want to take over a particular state enterprise, the government obliges by turning it into a loss making one through various policy measures. A situation is deliberately created whereby the assets of such a company can be sold for a song to the private monopolies. It is significant that with the Telecom sector emerging as one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy, the race among the private monopolies to grab BSNL has sharpened. It is in such conditions that the government is trying to liquidate BSNL
The unions have pointed out that BSNL is not recruiting maintenance workers who are urgently needed. It is handing over the technical work to private contractors. This is part of the privatisation program for BSNL.
Why is BSNL being regarded as loss making?
The unions have also pointed out that since 2006, the company has spent an average of Rs 8000 crores per annum to provide services to rural areas. This is something that the private monopolies have refused to do as it is not regarded as profitable. This social service provided by BSNL has not been compensated by the Government of India. How can services provided to the people of our country, especially in rural areas, be considered a "loss", the workers ask. It is a fact that in the whole period of privatization of Telecom services, the government deliberately ensured that the private players captured the major profitable sectors in the metros and other towns, while BSNL services were downgraded in precisely these areas. So we have the situation that in the countryside, in the hills, in the remote areas of our country, it is BSNL services that work, while in the big cities, the BSNL services are kept at inadequate levels to favour the private players. The government and management have ensured that private players can access BSNL networks without compensating it for the same.
The trade unions of BSNL employees have exposed how BSNL is being destroyed. The government has refused to buy modern state of the art equipment for the past four years. The unions allege that ministers have been bribed by the capitalists to ensure that upgrading of equipment in BSNL does not take place. Furthermore, government has put in place a corrupt management and corrupt advisory committees for BSNL who have been selected to pursue the agenda of the private monopolies, and liquidate BSNL as a prelude to its privatization.
The latest proof that government is trying to liquidate BSNL is that 3-G spectrum has been handed to private players at the cost of BSNL.
The struggle of BSNL workers is entirely just. The Communist Ghadar Party extends its full solidarity with the striking workers and engineers of BSNL.