The Government has plans to revive its two telecommunication behemoths namely Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL), which have been in the red for a long time now.
In the Union Budget for 2020-21, the Ministry for Telecommunication had been allocated Rs 20,410 crore by the Finance Ministry for capital infusion in both the organisations by providing them with 4G spectrum. Allotment of 4G spectrum to both the entities has been envisaged by the Centre as a step to financially revive them.
However the Finance Ministry shifted the entire amount allotted for the purpose to the current financial year, i.e. 2021-22, as the Telecommunication Ministry could not start the tender process for providing both BSNL and MTNL with 4G spectrum allocation.
Top sources in the Telecommunication Ministry confirmed that there was a delay in the tendering process for allotment of 4G spectrum to the two state-owned communication companies in 2020-21.
Due to the delay, the ministry could not spend the entire Rs 20,410 crore during the whole of 2020-21, thus forcing the Finance Ministry to shift the allocated amount to the current financial year of 2021-22.
Official sources said that the funds were withdrawn from the Telecommunication Ministry during the Revised Estimate stage. Normally a certain amount is allocated to a department in the Union Budget for meeting its various expenses. This is called Budgetary Allocation in Finance Ministry's parlance.
During the middle of the financial year, departments seek additional funds from the Finance Ministry depending on their requirements. Sometimes the original amount given under Budgetary Allocation is topped up or is even reduced, after reviewing the spending of the particular department or ministry. This is called Revised Estimate.
In this particular case, the Budgetary Allocation made in the Union Budget 2020-21 was Rs 20,410 crore under the head "Capital Infusion in BSNL and MTNL for 4G Spectrum". However at the Revised Estimate stage, this was brought down to "zero" as even till January 2021, the Telecommunication Ministry had not spent a single paisa from the allotted amount.
Due to the delay on part of the Telecommunication Ministry in issuing tenders for allocation of 4G spectrum for BSNL and MTNL, the entire amount was shifted as Budgetary Estimate for 2021-22 for the same purpose.