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BSNL, MTNL contract staff payment contractors’ duty: Minister

The government has repeatedly expressed its commitment to revive BSNL and MTNL by making them competitive.

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MTNL and BSNL

New Delhi, Nov 28 : BSNL and MTNL contractual employees would have to fend for themselves as they are on the rolls of their contractors and not of the two state-run telecom companies, Parliament was informed on Thursday.

Replying to a question in the Rajya Sabha from Trinamool Congress (TMC) member Dola Sen, IT and Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that contractual staff are not employees of either the BSNL or MTNL.

“They are contract employees of the contractors who are given a work for a specific purpose, subject to renewal. We have no problem with that but the obligation to pay the dues of the workers is that of the contractors,” Prasad said.

On being asked by about the voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) for the regular employees of the two companies, he said that the package is very attractive.

“The attractive nature of the VRS package is evident from the fact that till date in BSNL, 79,000 people have applied for VRS and in MTNL, out of 20,000 employees, 14,000 have already applied,” he said in an oral reply.

The government is currently in the process of reviving the two loss-laden PSUs. The Union Cabinet has already cleared a revival package, which includes the VRS offer to employees, given that the staff strength is far in excess of the requirements.

The two companies earlier stared at closure in the wake of mounting losses, but the government decided to infuse funds to ensure they remain in business. A very high staff load has been one of the key factors dragging them down.

The employee cost of BSNL has been 75.06 per cent of the revenue, whereas in case of MTNL it has been 87.05 per cent. Compared to this, for the rival private companies –Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio — the employee cost is 2.95 per cent, 5.59 per cent and 4.27 per cent, respectively.

The government has repeatedly expressed its commitment to revive BSNL and MTNL by making them competitive.

“BSNL and MTNL are strategic assets for the country. In case of earthquake, in case of cyclone, for defence purposes only they come and proactively become active. We have, therefore, decided to revive them,” Prasad said in the Rajya Sabha during Question Hour in response to a query by the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) MP Prabhakar Reddy.

Business

Vodafone Idea seeks Rs 35 per GB as minimum floor price

According to the source, Vodafone Idea wants minimum price of outgoing calls should be fixed at 6 paise per minute.

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Vodafone, Idea

New Delhi, Feb 27 : Vodafone Idea has sought fixing minimum tariffs for mobile data at Rs 35 per GB, which is about 7 time the current rate, and for calls at 6 paise per minute along with monthly charges from April 1, to help it pay statutory dues.

Struggling to clear adjusted gross revenue dues of Rs 53,000 crore to comply with a Supreme Court order, the loss-making telco has sought 18 years time to clear the dues, including a three-year moratorium on payment of interest and penalty, according to official sources.

In a letter to the Department of Telecommunications, the company said it wants minimum price of data should be fixed at Rs 35 per gigabyte and minimum monthly connection charge at Rs 50 from April 1, 2020. Current mobile internet prices are in the range of Rs 4-5 per GB.

According to the source, Vodafone Idea wants minimum price of outgoing calls should be fixed at 6 paise per minute.

The demand to raise call and internet rates from Vodafone Idea comes within three months of the company raising rates by up to 50 per cent.

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No impact of Delhi violence on investor confidence: Sitharaman

“But that shouldn’t cause worries, because FDI flows were steady and coming in good numbers while the forex is also doing very well,” she said.

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Nirmala Sitharaman

Guwahati, Feb 27: Claiming green shoots were visible in the Indian economy, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday denied any adverse impact on investor sentiments due to the Delhi violence and the ongoing anti-CAA protests in various parts of the country.

“The sentiments of foreign investors have not been dampened,” she told a media meet when asked whether investor confidence has taken a hit due to the agitation against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the violence in the national capital that has left at least 37 dead and over 200 injured.

Referring to her experiences at the recent Ministerial Conference on International Taxes in Riyadh, she said: “Nowhere was there a concern on something happening in India. On the contrary, there were very prominent investors who said they are now even open to open up a representation office in India, which they don’t have till now.”

The minister said she in fact saw lot of interest on India’s announcement of a national infrastructure pipeline.

“There is interest in India. It continues. And there is more interest in India for investors,” she said.

On whether the Indian companies were apprehensive of a raw material scarcity due to the coronavirus outbreak in China and elsewhere, Sitharaman said she held a meeting with 20-23 industries before leaving for Saudi Arabia, but none of them expressed any anxiety on that count.

“They didn’t express any anxiety about raw material supply, nor did they express any anxiety about exports being disturbed.

“However, of course, some of them felt after two months if the situation did not move, as regards containing the virus, they may start having problems of raw material availability, for which we are trying to see how best we can help them,” Sitharaman said.

To a query on the sluggish economy, the minister said following concrete steps by the government and the Reserve Bank of India, the mood was gradually turning positive.

“There are green shoots visible. Many of them are sustained, even if one or two are weakening. We are very clear that they will also revive,” she said, adding there were monthly ups and owns of some indicators.

“But that shouldn’t cause worries, because FDI flows were steady and coming in good numbers while the forex is also doing very well,” she said.

The minister conceded that there was inflationary pressure when due to climate change issues, prices of crops like onions went up.

“But now, India has lifted ban on exports of onion. That shows there is sufficient quantity of onions in the market, and indicates inflationary pressures are coming down,” said Sitharaman.

“The mood is gradually changing. There is every positive sign,” she said.

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India’s Q3 GDP expected to inch-up above 4.5%

India Ratings and Research gave a forecast of 4.7 per cent for Q3 GDP.

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slowdown in global economic growth

New Delhi, Feb 27 : India’s third quarter 2019-20 GDP growth rate is expected to inch up on the back of rising inflation, along with a modest uptick in the momentum of services and industry.

Several economists polled by IANS said that GDP growth rate is seen in the range of 4.6-4.8 per cent for the third quarter from 4.5 per cent reported for the second quarter of the current fiscal.

Various indicators like air passenger traffic, railways’ freight revenue and commercial vehicles’ sales have shown improvement in Q3FY20 against weak performance in Q2FY20.

The macro-economic data point of the national income and the GDP will be released on Friday.

“We expect the GDP Q3 number to be 4.8 per cent. Since no major improvement was observed among leading indicators, market expectations remain subdued,” said Karan Mehrishi, Lead Economist at Acuite Ratings and Research.

“Generally, Q3 is one of the strongest quarters in a financial year because the inclusion of festive seasons sales and kharif harvest-driven rural consumption, this time, however, nothing noteworthy is foreseen.”

Besides, he pointed out that capacity utilisation levels have also fallen.

“Fresh capex looks unlikely and investments will be moderate driven by the public sector. We are however mindful of the inflation trajectory moving forward,” Mehrishi said.

India Ratings and Research gave a forecast of 4.7 per cent for Q3 GDP.

Edelweiss Securities’ Economist Madhavi Arora said: “We expect a marginal shallow pick up in 3Q, amid still-sluggish corporate earnings and weak industrial sector.”

“While government spending has been a respite for the services sector, its’ contribution to growth will also decline marginally. We expect 3Q GDP to print around 4.6-4.7 per cent.”

Meanwhile, ICRA expects the GDP and the gross value added (GVA) growth at basic prices to rise mildly to 4.7 per cent and 4.5 per cent, respectively, in Q3FY20, from 4.5 per cent and 4.3 per cent, respectively, in Q2FY20.

“Some industrial and service sectors displayed a pickup in YoY volume growth in Q3FY20 relative to the previous quarter, while the output of kharif crops displayed a mixed trend,” its principal economist Aditi Nayar said.

“Lower raw material costs, high growth of the government’s non-interest revenue expenditure and the stable profitability metrics revealed by the earnings of some banks would provide a cushion to the pace of economic growth,” she said.

However, the extent and duration of coronavirus outbreak would test the sustainability of the nascent upturn in growth in the ongoing quarter.

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