BSNL employees start an indefinite strike from today. It has been called by Joint Forum of Executives & Non-Executives Associations that include even the rank of divisional engineers – altogether some 3.7 lakh employees.
What makes the almost entire gamut of BSNL staff to close ranks? The issue is that of survival. No longer a strike for increase in pay or cutting working hours. The demand for which most of BSNL’s employees are ceasing work from today is for immediate award of contract for 45.5 million cellular connections.
Seems unreal, but it is true. Presently, BSNL’s network for cellular services is running in full capacity barring a few pockets like Kolkata. Knowing this might happen BSNL’s mandarins floated tender worth $4.5 billion 2 years back for procuring network equipment and mobile switches that would have seen the monolith create fresh capacity for 5 years hence.
But now there is sign that the tender may be scrapped. If that happens, and should BSNL go for fresh tenders, the employees fear that it would take 2 more years to finalize the orders. And that may result in huge erosion of market share that perhaps can never be made good.
May be there is a distant ring of privatization attempt they see in Government’s dillydallying the tender process, which is why the protest from today. It’s another matter that the strike will cause untold misery for home-based people like me who live by BSNL’s broadband connection to get their work going. [Collated from ET, Kolkata July 11]
Update, July 13, 2007:
The strike was a one-day token protest, and not an indefinite strike. I’d know, because if it had been the latter, the broadband connectivity would have collapsed by now. But then the newspapers said it was not an indefinite strike.
As things now stand, the BSNL board will meet on Monday, July 16 and there is an indication that the current tender will be acted upon albeit with scaled-down options.
For us the subscribers, what matters is of course an uninterrupted broadband availability. It’s good then that BSNL authorities have woken up to the ground reality.