Connecting BSNL Employees / Subscribers 4 Growth of BSNL: BSNL Today - whom to blame?

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BSNL Today - whom to blame?

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We must understand clearly that BSNL with its present assets base, employee strength and country-wide presence should have been able to generate at least Rs.20000/- crore annual profits while providing the best quality services to the people of our country. Just think how much public resources have been employed in BSNL. Is it generating the required returns? The answer is “NO”. Rather we can say that BSNL generates negative returns; thus, resources are being wasted and its opportunity cost is huge for our country.

How did it happen? Who is responsible for it? The answer is simple. The fault lies with us. We, the employees, are responsible to a substantial degree, if not entirely. The employees of BSNL have not kept pace with changing circumstances over the last few decades. What has been done is far less than what we reasonably are supported to do. If we compare the knowledge, skills, attitude, efficiency etc. of an average BSNL employee with any similar level employee in other govt. /public sector organization, we would come to know that we are far inferior. Though it is generally true, certainly there are exceptions. But they are a few. It is surprising to know that DoT used to recruit the best human resources. Then how we became so inferior over a period of time? It is because we have not developed ourselves to the extent we are supposed to do under the given circumstances. We preferred to enjoy and became complacent.

Some people in BSNL are over-proud of its legacy and history. They are proud of their experience and past hard work. Then why we are in such a situation? It is not to say that everything in BSNL is bad; or there is nothing to be proud of; or experience has no value; or there has never been any hard work done by employees. The system is running anyhow; it means, some people have contributed and are still contributing their best. That good part of BSNL keeps the show running. But unfortunately, majority counts. Those excellent people constitute a very small percentage of the total workforce.

The case is never so simplistic to be either totally bad or the best. Any type of performance must be evaluated with reference to certain standard or benchmark. That is, what we supposed to have done given the then prevailing circumstances. The comparison and evaluation should always be with reference “what should have been done”.

The present situation is not at all ‘satisfactory’ and we are far from ‘excellence’. A ‘satisfactory’ state of affairs is not just enough. BSNL must ‘sustain’ itself for the livelihood of its lakhs of employees and ‘excel’ for the greater interest of our country. Therefore, what we are proud of is not enough. It is time to introspect, especially, for those who try to cover up under the plea of vast experience, past hard work etc.

It won’t be fair to be so critical without substantiating the case with some examples. There was a Sr. AO who held the post of AO (Cash)/DDO. But he did not know the difference between TIN and TAN [TIN= Tax Payers Identification Number (sales Tax/VAT); TAN= Tax Deduction Account Number (Income-tax)]

A CAO/IFA of an SSA did not know the meaning of “significant accounting policy” of BSNL. What would you say? Have they cared about their duty? No. They are getting professional up-gradation allowance, annual increments, time-bound financial up-gradations, regular promotions etc. But they think that they are not supposed to learn continuously to remain fit for the post.

Let’s see the picture from another angle. If we see the daily routine of an ordinary JTO/SDE/JAO/AO we find he is fully busy in his work and there is nothing much he can do about his work-setting. This applies to most of us. Then, how can we say that we are at fault?

We are in a system. In a system, we share the good works of others and others benefit from our good work. Similarly we suffer due to bad work of others and others suffer due to our bad work. Thus, an individual employee is not entirely responsible for the state of affairs in his work-settings. He affects others and is also affected by others. That is the characteristics of a system. Individually we cannot do much but collective we can.

Let’s come to our main topic. Why BSNL is in this situation? Who are the people responsible for this? What are the major causes behind this? The causes are mismanagement, inefficiency, corruption, Govt.’s approach towards BSNL etc. Let’s discuss some of these causes, and the role of different groups of people in causing such a situation.

The causes are:

  1. Sudden conversion of a government ‘departmental organization’ into a ‘commercial corporation’.
  2. Govt.’s approach towards BSNL
  3. The role of top-level management
  4. The role of middle-level management
  5. The role of associations of executives
  6. The role of non-executive employees
  7. The role of associations/unions of non-executive employees

Sudden creation of BSNL:
Govt. created BSNL without adequate preparation. Many issues should have been settled before creating BSNL. Some of the issues are:

  1. Absorption of Group-A officers, terms & conditions of their service, remuneration, pension, career progression etc.,
  2. Absorption of Group-B and other officers, their terms & conditions of service, pension, career progression etc.
  3. Internal re-organization of work and re-organization of various cadres
  4. Gratuity, Pension etc. of direct recruits
  5. Fresh recruitments for Marketing, HR, Legal functions
  6. Revised administrative & financial powers for officers to work in a PSU setup
  7. Re-training, Re-deployment, VRS etc. of employees

These issues are vital for smooth functioning of any organization. As these issues were not addressed properly, a sense of uncertainty & speculation prevailed. Just think how much time and energy have been spent on these issues by all concerned, i.e. DoT, Top-Management, Employees’ associations, administrative machinery etc. That time & energy could have been employed in making BSNL efficient & competitive. The non-settlement of these issues created a negative impact on the morale of the employees. Just giving some telephone facility or higher salary (IDA scale with point-to-point pay fixation) is not enough. After all, monetary benefits have effect on employees’ morale & motivation only to a certain extent.

Govt.’s approach towards BSNL:-
If the Central Govt. wants, it can do wonders in increasing the efficiency of any organization under its control. This can be done by holding its board of directors accountable; or by injecting professionalism & fresh professional managers; or by increased administrative/political attention; or by any other method. But it seems that Govt. is not bothered about the managerial/ organizational efficiency of BSNL, i.e. the efficiency with which the affairs of the enterprise are managed by its managers. Perhaps, govt. has forgotten how much public money has been put into this organization.

Example: The Dir. (finance) post is vacant for some time. Dir. (HRD) is the in-charge. BSNL cannot afford to keep the post vacant or being looked after by another director. It is perhaps the apathy of govt. or the failure of top-level management.

Top-Level management:
Top-level mgmt. here means managers from the level of GM [SAG-level] to Director. They are the real managers in BSNL. They are placed in a position to do wonders despite all odds. They have the authority and responsibility of direction, supervision and control. An SAG level officer has the capacity even to influence the policies made by HAG level officers and the board of directors. But the top-level management has not done what they should have done. They have not done enough to invite feedback. They have not done enough to systematize the internal work-flow, i.e. the way of doing work at field unit level. They have not done enough to prevent corruption.

Middle and Lower-level management:
Here, middle-level management means officers from STS to JAG level and lower-level means JTO/JAO to JTS level. Most of these officers came from Group-C level after passing LDCE. They are happy to maintain status quo. They simply executed the orders of their bosses. They remained busy in doing the day-to-day work. They never worried for improving the system of doing work. They never cared to evaluate the effectiveness of their work. They failed to give proper feedback to higher level managers. They shied away (even feared) from giving suggestions for improvement/ change. They mostly kept themselves busy in doing the work of an office assistant or at best the work of a section supervisor. Only a small portion of their work was a manager-like work. They failed to develop their skill & knowledge. They managed to escape as there was no pressure on them. This was partly due to their educational background and partly due to their mind-set. This applies even to those so called honest officers. The corrupt officers were busy in utilizing their intelligence in gathering wealth. Many so called honest officers were suffering from fallacious thinking and biased judgment. They lacked a holistic vision of the functioning of an organization. They failed to resolve the conflicts of short-term gains vis a vis long-term losses.

The role of associations of executives
The leaderships of these associations are busy in demanding higher salary, up-gradations, one-time relaxation, grace marks, promotions, transfers, cancellation of transfers etc. and organizing conferences.  They failed to demand higher standard of LDCE, higher standard of training, recruitments in vital cadres etc. They failed to impress upon their members the importance of honesty and judiciousness in routine official matters. In short, they failed to inculcate ethical behavior amongst their members. They were complacent in petty gains. They failed in giving feedback/ suggestions to the management.

The role of non-executive employees
These employees think that they won’t work and for any action from officers, they can take shelter under their unions. There is no punishment (also no reward). The practice of appeasement from management side made them so. They got up-graded pay scales, promotions etc. that they didn’t deserve.  Most of those getting UDC/ Supervisor’s scale are unfit to be an LDC. They didn’t see that  while they get Rs.15000/-p.m. for their work, a much more educated person in private sector does three times more work for a meager Rs.5000/-. They think that not doing work and remaining engaged in union work is a status/power symbol. They conveniently forget their duty but are very demanding about their rights. They forget that a time may come when they won’t get their salary and they can’t do anything about it.  No strike / agitation would be useful in that situation.

A small number of non-executives are so good that they are comparable with JAO/JTO. But they are too small in number. A little higher number of non-executives are just average. But majority makes the difference. Interestingly, a majority of such people are very nice people at personal level.  The problem is in their official work related competence and attitude. This means, there is a hope. 

Associations / Unions of Non-executive Employees:
The leadership of these associations/unions did more harm than good to their members. Although they were successful in getting higher pay scales and many up-gradations for their members, they failed in bringing real welfare to their members. [What an alcoholic will do with more salary; he will drink more.] Let’s not elaborate on the notorious activities of the union leaders and employees who move along these leaders. Let’s discuss about some constructive things which these unions are capable of doing but failed to do.

ü  They failed to impress upon their members that if they try to share the work more or less equally, the total work burden will be distributed among/ shared by many people and no one will be under work pressure. All will get self-satisfaction, respect in office and social prestige in public life.

ü  They failed to motivate their members to develop themselves and make themselves up-to-date & fit.

ü  They failed to help their fellow colleagues to come out of some of their social/ personal problems such as a debt-trap, alcoholism, polygamy etc.

ü  They failed to bring some real benefits such as regular holding of LDCE for JTO/ JAO. If this LDCE is done properly, it would be a win-win situation for all.  Non-executives will get good opportunity to become executives; executives’ burden will be shared; and for BSNL management, the incremental work from executives will be much more than the incremental salary. BSNL will also get a satisfied workforce.

These leaders are often misguiding their members on matters relating to disinvestment, IPO, VRS, etc. There cannot/ should not be any opposition to a Voluntary Retirement Scheme.

The causes responsible for today’s situation in BSNL have the following features:-

ü  To some extent, each cause is the effect of one or more other causes; normally, the cause (s) above it.

For example, the plans & policies of BSNL Board depend on the plans & policies of central govt. and its approach towards BSNL.

ü  To some extent, the causes are interrelated or interdependent; a cause as well as an effect. It means that nothing much can be done unless something else is done and vice versa.

For example, the policies/ decisions/ actions of Directors affect the decisions/ actions of CGMs & GMs and vice versa. The performance of any level of management in managerial hierarchy is dependent on the performance of its immediate lower and higher levels.

For example, if certain things are not done by the board of directors, HAG/ SAG level officers can’t do anything relating to that matter.

ü  To some extent, these causes are independent or mutually exclusive. It means that the cause has not arisen as a result of some other cause (s). It also means that it can be rectified/ removed independently. It means that the remedy is in individual hands, whatever may be the situation elsewhere.

Written By-
Taruna Kumar Gadabad
Jr. Accounts Officer
O/o GMTD, BSNL, Srikakulam, AP

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