Fed up with call drops and poor network connectivity, several Members of Parliament (MPs) are keen to drop their official telecommunications providers, government-owned BSNL and MTNL.
Based on their complaints, the House Committee of the Rajya Sabha, headed by the BJPs Om Mathur, proposed at its meeting on Friday that the MPs be allowed to switch to a private service provider.
Currently, there are three private operators in the country Bharti Airtel, Vodafone-Idea and Reliance Jio. All MPs are provided three phone connections, one of which can be used for broadband services. As per the Housing and Telephone Facilities (Members of Parliament) Rules, 1956, 50,000 local calls are free each year.
The MPs broadband bill worth 1,500 a month is also paid for. Together, the annual concessions amount to 1.5 lakh per MP.
The members have been complaining that the BSNL/MTNL connections have poor network and the Internet speed is not at par with that from private service providers.
However, according to sources, many members of the 10-member committee argued against the proposal. Congresss B.K. Hariprasad, Mohd Ali Khan and Samajwadi Partys Javed Ali Khan were among those to protest.
How can we as Parliamentarians let down a government-run service provider? If we also give up on them, then how can we expect them to stay afloat, one of the members said on condition of anonymity. The members argued that instead of disconnecting BSNL/ MTNL, the PSUs should be held accountable and told pull up their socks.
The issue has been deferred for now without taking any clear action.
The government is currently reviewing a revival package for the two loss-making firms, which for the past few months have been struggling to even pay employee salaries on time.
For BSNL, the Department of Telecom had proposed a 74,000 crore revival plan, including payout for voluntary retirement scheme and 4G spectrum. While this proposal was approved by a Group of Ministers, headed by Home Minister Amit Shah, objections were raised by the Finance Minister. Following this, a committee headed by Principal Secretary P.K. Mishra has referred issues to a high-level panel looking into the revival of the two firms.