Non-payment of Medical bills/ allowance- Pensioners in Distress-  

Central Government should step in.

BSNL had introduced a separate Medical Reimbursement Scheme to its employees as well as pensioners. It is more advantageous to those in higher pay scales, no doubt;but it is also a  better scheme for all, in comparison  with the central government scheme. However, it was modified on two-  three occasions, reducing the entitlement on the plea of austerity measures. The quarterly medical allowance without voucher was also stopped unilaterally by the BSNL management in 2012, to both the employees and pensioners. It was after much pressure exerted through struggles and persuasions, not only by the pensioners but most importantly by the BSNL Unions and Associations, that the quarterly medical allowance was restored to the BSNL retirees alone.

However, the fact remains that there are thousands of pensioners who are yet to receive a single installment of the restored medical allowance. In some circles one or two installments only are paid. The medical bills with voucher, both for indoor and outdoor treatment, are pending unpaid for the last one year or more, putting the BSNL pensioners in complete distress and dismay. Alas, the bills for chronic diseases like cancer, kidney and heart ailments are also not paid.. The pensioners are struggling to pull on, unable to purchase the medicines, without which they cannot survive. The plight and sufferings of the pensioners were duly brought to the notice of the CMD, BSNL by this association through a detailed letter and discussion on 16-07-2019, but of to no avail. The CMD pleaded his helplessness due to the reduced  income of BSNL and asked the delegation to advise the pensioners to switch over to CGHS. The delegation promptly pointed out that CGHS dispensaries are available only in limited cities. To make the CGHS attractive, efforts should be made to have the Dispensaries in all the district headquarters and pensioners be exempted from obtaining permission from the dispensary for treatment at the empanelled hospitals. Moreover, a huge amount has to be paid as one time membership of CGHS by the retirees.  Though it is reimbursable by BSNL, the claims in this regard by already switched over pensioners also are pending, unpaid by BSNL, as in the case of medical bills and allowance. The CMD has also stated that BSNL cannot afford the BSNL MRS in the present form and proposed a uniform monthly medical allowance similar to the FMA in central government. The delegation replied that our Association has already put forward a demand of a uniform monthly medical allowance of Rs.2000.

We are quite aware of the financial crisis being faced by BSNL due to the anti PSU policy of the government. The main reason for the crisis in the telecom sector is the undue patronage being extended to Reliance Jio, particularly allowing predatory pricing. BSNL is in a better position with a debt of about Rs.20,000crores compared to other telecom companies which are in debts of lakhs of crores. Proposals for the revival of BSNL are being floated on a regular basis in the media, viz print , visual and social. It was reported that the proposal of Telecom Department for revival of BSNL was approved by a Cabinet Sub Committee headed by Shri. Amit Shah, Home Minister with Ms.Nirmala Sitharaman, Finance Minister and Shri. Ravi Shankar Prasad, Communications Minister, as members. Later, news appeared to the effect that the Finance Ministry has rejected the proposal. What an irony…?

The need of the hour is a soft loan to BSNL to tide over the present financial crisis. 4G spectrum is to be allotted immediately. BSNL is a fully owned government company and the central government should come forward by helping it financially as promised during the formation of BSNL. Government should ensure that the contract workers are paid their eight months wages, BSNL employees are paid their salary on due date and payment of pending medical bills/ allowances paid to the BSNL pensioners. Otherwise, we have no other option other than agitation for which the central government alone shall be responsible.