Maintenance and other external works of the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) have been experiencing delays ever since the public sector telecom company outsourced such works earlier this year. Even requests for upgrading of internet connections are at times delayed, leading to customers switching to connections provided by private players.
“I have been using a BSNL broadband connection for the past two years. Ever since the lockdown began, my work has been dependent on the internet connection at home. But over the past few months, frequent disruptions are affecting my work. Though I had registered the complaint, no action was taken. Later, I registered for an upgrade to the BSNL Bharat Fiber plan, but even after weeks, there was no response. When I visited the local BSNL office, I was told that now the work is done by private contractors and that there is shortage of cables. Now I have shifted to a connection by a private company,” says Jesin Varkey, an IT employee staying near Karyavattom in Thiruvananthapuram. According to BSNL trade union leaders, they had received complaints about delay in fault rectification in recent times.
“Those in the field inform us that there is more delay in rectifying cable faults and in getting new equipment. Under the arrangement, the contracted company has to purchase the equipment and much of the low-end cables. We informed the management, and they told us that instructions will be issued to clear these issues,” says says C. Santosh Kumar, Kerala Circle Secretary of BSNL Employees’ Union.
The BSNL had rolled out its outsourcing policy early in January, after a large number of employees involved in provisioning and maintenance of the copper cable network opted for the Voluntary Retirement Scheme. The new policy allows all telecom circles to outsource maintenance work and provision of landline and broadband connections.
Among the services outsourced include attending to all types of network faults, provision of new landline and broadband connections and shifting of connections. The running of some of the customer service counters were also outsourced. Union leaders see these moves as the management’s way of testing the waters for its eventual privatisation.
The delay on the Union government’s part in allowing the BSNL to go ahead with 4G services has also compounded its woes, especially when it could have had a quantum jump in new users as education and work have shifted online during the COVID-19 pandemic.