PROVIDING a fresh lease of life to ailing telecom company MTNL, Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant recently said the ministry of communications and information technology will soon clear MTNL's long pending dues borne out of surrendering valuable 4G or broadband wireless access (BWA).
In a meeting last week between Sawant, Rahul Shewale and minister of communications and information...Ravi Shankar Prasad, issues pertaining to pensionary liabilities, BWA dues amounting to Rs4,533.97 crores and return of the minimum alternate tax were discussed.
Earlier, the south Mumbai MP criticized the ministry for lack of action through a series of strong-worded letters.
The letters highlighted the "chronic ailments" of MTNL and BSNL, such as "dropping of calls, one way speech, poor network and poor broadband services".
Sawant, a long-time leader of Kamgar Sena, MTNL's trade union, wrote in a letter dated April 16, "Since the inception of the new government, we have not moved an inch in improving the services of BSNL and MTNL, despite assurances of the minister in Parliament."
Sawant, explaining the woes of the two companies, said, "MTNL and BSNL together paid Rs11,258 crore for acquiring the broadband wireless spectrum in 2010, which depleted much of their resources. Besides, despite the previous regime of clearing pensionary liabilities, those dues have not been paid yet. Even in the face of losses, the company has been doing well in the broadband sector, but lack of money is affecting improvement in services."
With the surrender of spectrum early this year, Rs6,724.51 crore and Rs4,533.97crore is to be paid to BSNL and MTNL, respectively. The PSUs had to pay much higher rates for the spectrum.
The minister told a daily, "We sat down with the MP (Sawant), who has been long associated with MTNL, and discussed a comprehensive set of issues to help the company." On the payment of BWA dues, Prasad said, "I do not want to go into specifics at this moment."Regarding the issue of payment to the PSUs for surrendering the spectrum, a top official in the department of telecommunications said, "MTNL has been asked to borrow money from the markets and the government will pay it back; BSNL has been a paid small instalment as of now."