Setting aside the state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL), the Department of Posts, trading as India Post has opted for private telecom players- Vodafone, Airtel and Reliance Jio for mobile connections provided to its employees.
According to information revealed under the RTI Act filed by Arif Jwadder, for a total of 4,487 connections, a little over Rs 4.5 lakh was paid to private telecommunication companies on a monthly basis.
The RTI reviewed by News18 had information about 15,608 connections out of which 9,349 connections did not mention any provider’s name. Extrapolating the average stated above, the annual bill approximates to Rs 1.45 crore. On the other hand, BSNLreceived a monthly payout of approximately Rs 30,000.
While the RTI had information about only 15,608 connections, the 2018-19 annual report of the Department of Posts stated that as on 31 March 2019, over 38,000 mobile phones were purchased. This could take the total amount paid by the India Post to private players to a whopping Rs 4.16 crore annually.
Vodafone accounted for the lion’s share, 73.1 per cent of the connections.
In September 2018, the Centre had launched a plan to provide smartphones to postmen in order to provide door-to-door banking by India Post Payment Bank.
This comes at a time when both BSNL and India Post have been competing with each other to become India’s top loss-making public sector unit. BSNL’s loss swelled by over 2.5 times to Rs 39,089 crore during the April-December 2019 period, minister of state for Telecommunications Sanjay Dhotre informed Parliament in March this year.
The public sector telecom firm had recorded a loss of Rs 14,904 crore in the previous financial year.
Meanwhile, in the past three financial years, the revenue deficit of the India Post has increased by close to 150 per cent. The public sector unit, which runs the world’s largest postal network along with popular savings schemes, a payments bank and, more recently, even an e-commerce portal has projected revenue of Rs 19,203 crore for the current financial year.
According to reports, India Post spends on an average Rs 12.15 on each postcard but realises only 50 paise from it. Similarly, the average parcel service cost is Rs 89.23, but recovery is only half of that.
The revenues have also taken a hit due to dropping volumes of letters, telegrams and parcels which have given way to phone calls, emails and courier companies.
Meanwhile, over 78,300 BSNL employees and 14,378 at MTNL have opted for voluntary retirement schemes. In order to take control of the situation, the Centre on October 23, 2019, had approved a Rs 68,751-crore revival package for BSNL and MTNL.
The Cabinet also approved the merger of the state-owned telecom firms and till the completion of the process, MTNL will operate as a subsidiary of BSNL.