Can MTNL and BSNL be revived: PMO asks high-level panel

New Delhi: The Prime Minister Office is learnt to have asked a high-level panel, looking into the revival of MTNL and BSNL, to explain if the two telecom PSUs can be turned around and how.

The direction has come after the finance ministry raised objections to a proposal moved by the telecom department (DoT) for reviving the two PSUs. A group of ministers headed by Home Minister Amit Shah had earlier approved the revival plan proposed by the DoT.

"Prime Minister Office panel under Principal Secretary P K Mishra in its meeting last week asked if MTNL and BSNL can be revived and if they can be revived then how. The panel has set up a committee of secretaries to work on these questions," an official source told PTI.

The committee includes Telecom Secretary Anshu Prakash, senior officials from Department of Public Enterprises, Niti Aayog, and the Department of Investment and Public Asset Management and is likely to submit its reply this week, the official said.

The Group of Ministers headed by Amit Shah had approved the revival package for the loss-making public sector telecom firms in mid-July. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad were part of the GoM that approved the plan.

However, finance ministry officials later raised over 80 objections to the proposal firmed up by the telecom ministry.

The DoT has proposed Rs 74,000 crore revival plan for BSNL as closing down of BSNL alone would cost the government Rs 95,000 crore. The revival plan proposed by the DoT includes Rs 29,000 crore pay out for voluntary retirement scheme, Rs 20,000 crore for 4G spectrum and Rs 13,000 crore to fund capex for 4G services.

The plan estimated that with revival package BSNL may become profitable by the financial year 2024.

An email query sent to the telecom secretary in this regard elicited no reply.

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