The Centre on Wednesday decided to merge telecommunications service providers Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited.

The two entities have been incurring losses. Earlier this month, MTNL employees alleged they had not been paid salaries for the past two months.

“Neither BSNL or MTNL is being closed, nor is it being disinvested, nor hired to any third party,” said Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. “We want to make them competitive.”

He said a bond of Rs 15,000 crore would be raised for the two telecom majors. “We will allocate the 4G spectrum upon the 2016 price,” Prasad added. Taking dig at the Congress, the minister accused past governments did not handle BSNL’s affairs well.

Prasad said assets worth Rs 38,000 crore would be monetised in the next five years. “We are also bringing a very attractive VRS [Voluntary Retirement Scheme] package,” the minister. “If any officer employee is 53.5 years old, for example, he will get 125% of his salary till the age of 60.”

MTNL employees had planned a protest during lunch hours on October 10 and October 16 in Mumbai and Delhi to protest against the non-payment of salaries. Apart from their salaries, they demanded the merger of MTNL and BSNL, and permission to MTNL to use 4G and 5G connections. They also urged the government not to reduce the retirement age from 60 years to 50 years.

On October 2, the Telecom Executives Association of MTNL had written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, telling him that MTNL employees were in serious financial difficulties ahead of the festive season. The association said the telecom company’s senior management and Department of Telecommunications officials were clueless about their problems. The organisation requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to step in and direct his office to disburse the salaries.

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