Special Correspondent

Bangalore: Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) employees and officers will go on strike on Thursday in protest against the Union Government's policies which they feel "are against the growth and development of BSNL''.

The circle secretaries of six unions in the State, in a joint statement, have said that telephone subscribers should understand that BSNL has been forced to compete against many private operators since 1991.

The privatisation of telecom services, as dictated by the World Bank, had made many multinational companies enter the scene.

The private operators were neglecting the rural sector where BSNL was still the main player. While BSNL's rural subscribers constituted 35.2 per cent, the private operators served less than one per cent of them each. The recent move of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to give a fixed amount each year as Access Deficit Charges collected as a levy from private operators instead of proportionate charges will result in losses of Rs. 5,500 crores to BSNL, they said.

It may be forced to raise tariff, which it could not do because of competition.

In the mobile telephone sector too BSNL was left behind because of the Government's policies; it was allowed to operate nationwide only in 2002 but still covered 1,200 cities while the private mobile companies served only 136 cities.

The unions have asked the Union Government to make policy changes so that BSNL can still earn profits and continue to serve the public.