Special Correspondent

The organisation has submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister

BSNL has asked its units not to place orders with ITI under the quota It is yet to receive a directive from the Centre to continue orders Workers feel ITI's fortunes will be affected if the quota is discontinued The U.S. has questioned continuation of the quota

Bangalore: Workers of the beleaguered telecom equipment maker ITI Limited have sought the Prime Minister's intervention to continue with the 30 per cent reservation order policy which is under threat of being withdrawn by the Union Department of Telecommunications (DoT).

Through a circular issued on May 16, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) asked its units not to place orders with the ITI for supply of telecom equipment against the 30 per cent reservation quota which was provided to the Bangalore-based company over the past 12 years.

"Instructions were issued on April 20, 2005 for giving 30 per cent reservation quota for both centralised and decentralised items to ITI Ltd for 2005-06. The direction from DoT for continuation of the reservation policy for 2006-07 is still awaited. All concerned are therefore requested not to place reservation quota order on ITI during 2006-07 till further instructions from this office," the circular issued by D. Bhattacharya, Assistant Director-General, BSNL, says.

ITI employees feel that a discontinuation of the reservation policy will affect the fortunes of the work-starved Bangalore plant in the face of the rising demand for GSM lines. The uncertainty over the quota policy comes at a time when the BSNL has floated a tender worth about $ 4.5 billion for procuring 60 million GSM lines. The continuation of the policy would have helped the ITI bag an order for 15 million lines worth about $ 1.5 billion.

Not surprisingly, the U.S., at the behest of some of its telecom vendors, has questioned the policy of providing 30 per cent reservation for the ITI.

"The demand for GSM lines has increased immensely in the past two years and we are confident that a part of this requirement can be manufactured at the Bangalore plant," K. Sathyanarayana, general secretary, ITI Employees' Union, says. The Government's failure to source a part of the requirement for GSM from the Bangalore plant without harming the interest of any other unit of the ITI is a "deadly and unjust blow to the survival of the mother unit of the ITI in Bangalore", he says.

Contents of memorandum

In a memorandum submitted to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the employees' union pointed out that "nothing extraordinary has happened with regard to the overall existence of the ITI, which is a PSU (public sector undertaking), and no qualitative change has occurred to justify non-continuation of the reservation policy in respect of the ITI". The BSNL should have been asked by DoT to "continue with the policy for this year and every year well before March 31, 2006". Such a decision should have been communicated to all concerned so that the ITI could arrange funds for procuring raw materials, and manufacture equipment within the stipulated delivery time, the memorandum said.

U.S. criticised

Mr. Sathyanarayana alleges that the reported comments made by the U.S. Commerce Secretary opposing the quota policy "bares crass foreign interference".

In the memorandum, the union urged the Prime Minister to continue with the reservation policy and provide adequate work for the survival of the Bangalore plant. It sought an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the problems faced by the ITI and the financial losses suffered by it "to unravel the truth" behind the company's misfortunes and fix responsibility.