New Delhi: The Department of Telecom has asked state governments not to disconnect electricity connections of state-owned BSNL and MTNL on account of pending dues as they are providing strategic services for the upcoming elections, sources said.
BSNL has already cleared 90 per cent of its power dues and is expected to clear the rest in the next 15-20 days.
"A letter from the Department of Telecom has been sent to state chief secretaries requesting them to avoid disruption in MTNL and BSNL electricity connections because it is providing strategic support to state machineries for managing elections," an official told PTI.
When contacted, BSNL Chairman and Managing Director Anupam Shrivastava said, "We have cleared 90 per cent of the dues for electricity connections. Now around Rs 250 crore is left, which will be cleared in next 15-20 days. There were some disconnections that took place but all of them have been restored now."
Status of MTNL could not be ascertained. Both BSNL and MTNL were unable to pay salaries to their employees for the month of February.
The government released pending dues of Rs 171 crore to cash-strapped MTNL for paying February salaries while BSNL has cleared salary dues of around Rs 850 crore from its internal accruals.
In the hyper-competitive telecom environment, both the public sector firms have approached the government for financial support and to resolve legacy issues, but the Centre is yet to take any final call.
MTNL, which operates only in Delhi and Mumbai, expects that asset monetisation and other measures can help in paring its debt of around Rs 19,000 crore.
BSNL, which has the lowest debt of Rs 14,000 crore among all telecom operators, has sought 4G spectrum across India through equity infusion of Rs 7,000 crore to help it compete in the market.
BSNL has 1.76 lakh employees across India, while MTNL has around 22,000. It is estimated that 16,000 MTNL employees and 50 per cent of BSNL staffers will retire in the next 5-6 years.