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DoT likely to push ahead with VRS to 1 lakh BSNL employees

Government of India seems to have made up its mind on cutting the number of employees in state-owned BSNL by a third, or 1 lakh, in an effort to turn around the loss-ridden company.

Responding to a question about how BSNL and MTNL can “manage their affairs with such a huge reduction of staff”, the Department of Telecom said they will be able to cope with the situation by adjusting their “business processes” and increased use of information technology.

“Both PSUs will be able to manage with reduced staff by way of greater utilization of Information Technology and re-engineering of business processes in tune with the current business environment,” junior telecom minister Milind Deora said.

The company’s losses have increased by about 30% in the last financial year to Rs 8,851 crore, largely on account of the unsustainably high number of employees. BSNL has a total revenue of about Rs 28,000 crore.

For example, its biggest competitor Bharti Airtel, which has a revenue of about Rs 72,000 crore, has only about 22,000 employees (some of whom may be part of its operations outside India). However, it may be noted that Bharti is not involved heavily in labor-intensive land-line operations and has outsourced the management of IT, towers and radio networks to IBM, Indus towers and telecom equipment makers like Nokia Siemens Networks.

However, even including employees that are possibly employed by these companies for Bharti, the total tally is likely to be only about 50,000-70,000, or about one-fourth to one-fifth of BSNL’s.

Even after the voluntary retirement scheme is implemented, BSNL will still have an unusually large employee base of about 2 lakh. However, as a large section of BSNL’s employees are in the 40-50 age bracket, unlike private companies’, the number of employees are likely to decrease by natural retirement as well.

Asked if BSNL has been continuing to recruit employees despite being overstaffed, Deora said the recruitment was required to meet its operational requirements.

“During the last five years, BSNL has recruited 48 Deputy General Managers (DGMs), 628 Junior Accounts Officers (JAOs), 4171 Junior Telecom Officers (JTOs) and 7213 Telecom Technical Assistant (TTAs). The appointments are not in excess of BSNL’s requirement,” he said.

MTNL hired 235 executives during the last five years.

BSNL is also in the process of ‘repatriating’ hundreds of Indian Telecom Officers (ITOs) back to the DoT.

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