Public sector behemoth, Mahanagar Telecom Nigam Ltd, has become another white elephant, supported by periodic infusions of taxpayers’ money to continue its loss-making operations.
It seems MTNL employees have not been paid their salaries in the last two months for want of funds. It is common knowledge that MTNL has virtually become redundant, despite it still performing a few public services, following the ever-growing popularity of private cellular phone companies.
The downturn in the fortunes of the once-prosperous MTNL is now hard to reverse. It will continue to bleed unless its payroll can be pared down to the minimum and a new and socially purposeful and economically viable role can be found for it. Ideally, it should be privatised.
The task of taking communication services to the deep hinterland and other regions which are not serviced by the private telecom companies can be assigned to the latter at the pain of penal action.
Private companies can be suitably compensated for the services they provide in far-flung areas which might be uneconomic currently but which with the passage of time can be made viable.
The government will be within its right to enjoin upon private telecom operators to undertake this onerous task at payment of a fair compensation.
But the remedy for the growing ills of MTNL is to immediately put it on the disinvestment list unless the authorities want to be saddled with another Air India-like white elephant.