Employees of Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited have announced a lunch-hour demonstration on October 10 and October 16 in Mumbai and Delhi, to protest against the non-payment of salaries since August, and problems related to revival of MTNL.

In a letter to the secretary of the Department of Telecommunications, and to MTNL Chairperson and Managing Director Sunil Kumar on October 3, the Telecom Executives Association of MTNL said that the central government should pay the salaries of the organisation’s employees if MTNL is unable to do so, since it is the principal owner and employer of the company.

The association said that MTNL employees will hold lunch-hour demonstrations at Sanchar Bhawan Gate in New Delhi and ED Mumbai telecom office on October 10. A protest will also be held at the CGO Complex in New Delhi and the ED Mumbai telecom office on October 16.

Some of the demands made by the protesting MTNL employees are immediate payment of August and September salaries, no reduction in retirement age from 60 to 50 years and merging of MTNL with Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited, as well as allowing MTNL to use 4G and 5G connections.

The Telecom Executives Association of MTNL had on October 2 written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, telling him that MTNL employees are in serious financial difficulties, especially with the festive season coming up. The letter said that the top management of MTNL and department of telecommunications officials are “clueless” about payment of salaries before Dussehra. The letter requested Modi to step in and direct the Prime Minister’s Office to disburse the salaries.

A report in the Financial Express on October 8 had said that the government has suggested that both MTNL and BSNL be shut down. The government made the suggestion after rejecting a proposal by the department of communications to infuse Rs 74,000 crore in the two ailing firms.

The cost of closing the two public sector units will be Rs 95,000 crore if the government provides an attractive voluntary retirement scheme to the 1.65 lakh employees of BSNL, and pays off all its debts, Financial Express reported quoting sources. However, the cost will be lower if an attractive VRS option is not offered.

The government has reportedly ruled out disinvestment from MTNL and BSNL, as it feels there would be no takers for the public sector units in the current stressed telecom sector.

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