In a move that has sparked outrage among Twitter users, the Union Cabinet has approved a third revival package for Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), with a total outlay of Rs 89,047 crore. Critics argue that the allocation of such a significant amount of taxpayer money to revive the state-owned telco is a “sheer waste.”
The approved package includes the allotment of 4G and 5G spectrum to BSNL through equity infusion, enabling the company to expand its services and enhance connectivity. The authorized capital of BSNL will also be increased from Rs 1.5 lakh crore to Rs 2.1 lakh crore, indicating the government’s commitment to support the telecom operator.
Under the package, BSNL will receive premium wireless frequencies in various bands, including the valuable 700 MHz band spectrum, worth Rs 46,338.6 crore. Additionally, frequencies in the 3300 MHz band worth Rs 26,184.2 crore, frequencies in the 26 GHz band worth Rs 6,564.93 crore, frequencies in the 2500 MHz band worth Rs 9,428.2 crore, and miscellaneous items worth Rs 531.89 crore are also part of the allocation.
The spectrum allocation will allow BSNL to roll out 4G and 5G services across the country, extend 4G coverage to rural and uncovered areas as part of connectivity projects, offer Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) services for high-speed internet, and provide services/spectrum for Captive Non-Public Network (CNPN).
This is the third revival package for BSNL, with the first one amounting to Rs 69,000 crore provided in 2019 and the second package worth Rs 1.64 lakh crore announced in 2022. These packages aimed to provide financial support for capital expenditure, viability gap funding for rural landlines, balance sheet restructuring, and settlement of Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) dues. As a result of the previous packages, BSNL’s total debt has reduced from Rs 32,944 crore to Rs 22,289 crore.
While the government argues that these revival packages are necessary to strengthen BSNL and improve telecom infrastructure in the country, critics express concern over the significant financial burden placed on taxpayers. The outrage expressed on Twitter highlights the public’s frustration with the allocation of funds to a state-owned enterprise amidst other pressing needs.
As the revival package moves forward, the government will need to address the concerns raised by the public and ensure transparency and accountability in the utilization of taxpayer money.