KOCHI: Entrepreneur Ramesh Menon headed to the BSNL office in Tripunithura on Wednesday hoping to change his digital plan. But, he was in for a rude shock when he saw the huge office wide open and entirely unmanned, without even a security guard.
Nobody manned the counters on the ground floor and the rooms which housed technical equipmaent were empty too. He searched the entire building for a staffer only to find none. An eerie silence enveloped the rooms. Soon, a few more customers gathered around. “Everybody looked puzzled,” says Ramesh. However, it was later revealed that the officials had put up a ‘Today Holiday’ board at an inconspicuous place, due to which customers missed seeing it. “Later, a friend told me that they were closed because of Pongal,” he adds.
The once-busy BSNL office at Tripunithura sports a forlorn look due to the mass voluntary retirement taken by the employees. According to an employee of the office, out of 35 staffers, around 19 had applied for VRS.“I read recently that 68.9 per cent of the eligible staff in Kerala have applied for VRS, the highest among all the states.”
According to Ramesh, an electrician who was later spotted at the office, said the agency, which had been supplying security guards, withdrew their staffer due to non-payment of dues.Meanwhile, an official of the Sanchar Nigam Executives’ Association, Kerala said that on holidays, one person is always deputed to keep an eye on the equipment. “Maybe, at Tripunithara, he might have stepped out to have tea,” he says.
Whatever may be the case, a lot of customers like Ramesh feel pained at the state of BSNL. “It has the best infrastructure when compared to private mobile companies. For my dad, who is 86, and my mom, who is 78, BSNL is their lifeline. They don’t use mobile phones. And for years, I lived outside and stayed in touch with them through BSNL only. What I fear most about the decline of BSNL is that landlines will become redundant. And elderly people will be left without phones.” A lot of them also express apprehension over giving VRS to technicians who have two to three decades of experience.