gfiles governance awards 2019
By the Way

Bumping out BSNL

Is the government in the mood to wind up public sector institutions? There is no formal directive regarding this but the way some top functionaries of the RBI are working, it appears that it has the tacit consent of the government to ignore PSUs. Recently, there was an important matter—issue of payment banks licence to telephone operators by the RBI. Approximately 41 operators applied for the licence—including BSNL. Almost everybody got the licence—except BSNL. The Reserve Bank granted ‘in-principle’ approval to 11 entities, including Reliance Industries, Aditya Birla Nuvo, Paytm, Vodafone, and Airtel, to set up payment banks and proposed such licences ‘on tap’ in future. The other entities which have been given ‘in-principle’ approval are the Department of Posts, Cholamandalam Distribution Services, Tech Mahindra, National Securities Depository Limited (NSDL), Fino PayTech, and Sun Pharma’s Dilip Shantilal Shanghvi. Not only BSNL but Mobikwik, Oxigen, Citrus, and Novopay Itz Cash Card also applied for the licence but failed to get approval. Sources disclosed that BSNL was refused on reasons of non-compliance with list of required documents. gfiles investigated this issue and found out that there was a strong lobby working to keep BSNL out of the multi-crore bonanza. BSNL partnered with Sistema, a reputed Russian company headed by Vladimir Yevtushenkov. Insiders reported that BSNL pleaded with RBI authorities that the non-compliance charge was false and that keeping in mind the impeccable reputation of BSNL, the licence should be granted ‘in-principle’. But when authorities have their own bias, who listens. The dream to promote rural banking by BSNL is shattered!

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