MTNL gets breather, NITI says no proposal of disinvestment or closure on cards

| | new delhi

Employees of state-run Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL) have reason to cheer as the Government has ruled out the disinvestment plan for the time being. After massive protests by employees' union of MTNL, NITI Aayog has cleared the air, saying that as of now there is no such proposal of strategic sale or closure of the Government-owned telecom firm.

In a response letter issued on October 14, 2016, which is in possession with The Pioneer, Niti Aayog Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Amitabh Kant wrote to Arvind Sawant, Member of Parliament (MP) in Lok Sabha, “I would like to inform you that there is no proposal under consideration of the NITI Aayog at present for closure or disinvestment of the MTNL.”

After media reports of the MTNL's strategic sale, followed by the Government's move for the same in a select few loss-making PSU units, not only Sawant but also all employees of the public sector telecom firm were panicked for this unwanted development. Thereafter, all of them appealed to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), NITI Aayog, Telecom Ministry and Department of Telecommunication (DoT) through various social media and individually as well for its revival, requesting not to initiate any sale move of the Government. Sawant also personally wrote to the NITI Aayog, spelling out the reason for recurring losses in the MTNL, and subsequent suggestions for its revival.

In the letter of response, it has been observed, Kant assured that there won't be any such unprecedented move against the MTNL or its employees, but he had never mentioned any way out or revival mechanism for a long-term sustainability plan of the continuous loss-making firm. When contacted to Kant, he was not available for the comment.

However, sources said that the fate of MTNL still hangs in the balance. “The proposal of disinvestment or strategic sale of MTNL is still pending in the PMO for consideration. So far, there has been no communication to either the Telecom Ministry or DoT from the PMO in this regard, nor has it given any 'green signal' of revival to the telecom firm,” it said.

Meanwhile in a separate development, the five-member search-cum-selection panel formed by the Government and headed by Public Enterprise Selection Board (PESB) Chairman Ajit Seth, also decided to appoint PK Purwar, Director (Finance) of MTNL as permanent Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) with a full five-year term in the company, lighting up some hope for the employees on revival aspect.

Purwar who was given additional charge for the CMD post temporarily for three months, was officially issued an official order of appointment by the panel in the evening on October 25, 2016 as full-time CMD of MTNL for five years, a move by the Government to allay fears of strategic sale or closure of the company.

“Keeping in view performance of the candidates interviewed with special regard to their qualities of managerial capability, leadership, board vision, track records etc, the Committee recommended Purwar as permanent CMD for the MTNL,” the order said.

As per the order, the interview for selection of the CMD was held in the morning on October 25, 2016, and the panel met a total number of 9 candidates for the purpose. Among them, Purwar was the front-runner for the top post. Apart from Purwar, there were other 8 other contenders - 7 from the MTNL itself and one from Indian Rare Earths Limited (IREL), Mumbai for the race. They include Sunil Kumar, Director, (HR &EB), Sanjeev Kumar, Director (Technical), AK Agrawal, PGM (Development), Rajendra Prasad, PGM (Training), N Krishna Moorthy, GM (Special Service), Anirudh Prasad Singh, GM (Finance) and Rajendra Singh, GM (MM) - all from MTNL and Rakesh Tumane, Director (Finance) from IREL, Mumbai.

The PSU telecom firm, which offers services in Delhi and Mumbai, has been without a full-time CMD since May 30, 2014, when AK Garg retired from the post. However, Purwar was given additional charge for the post from June 2014. From June 2015 to June 2016, NK Yadav, who is member (services), held the charge. Purwar was again given the additional charge in June 2016, after completion of Yadav's tenure. 

For this key post, the Government had sought suitable candidates who were required to submit their applications before September 8, 2016. Purwar's name had been recommended for the MTNL's top post by the PESB in November 2013, but the Government did not go ahead with the recommendation.



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