India’s domestic telecom gear makers and suppliers have sought the intervention of commerce minister Piyush Goyal and telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad for the release of Rs 200 million in dues from Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), Bharat Broadband Network Limited (BBNL) and Indian Telephone Industries (ITI).

The move has been undertaken to clear wages of nearly 200,000 employees amid lockdown.

In an emailed letter to Prasad dated March 30, 2020 and video-conferencing with Goyal, the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry said that the outstanding payments from BSNL at a time of complete shutdown following COVID-19 pandemic could be a death knell to the Indian telecom equipment manufacturing industry.

The local gear companies have outstanding dues worth Rs 60 billion, while, the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) has more than Rs 10 billion worth of pending dues on state-run companies in the telecom sector.

Separately, the Telecom Exports Promotion Council (TEPC) has said nearly Rs 60 billion as a part of capital expenditure has been blocked by public sector companies, and in the difficult times, at least a partial payment should be released by the government to public-owned firms so that it could provide much impetus to the domestic sector.

However, according to the TEPC, the public sector firms owe nearly Rs 200 billion against invoices, and if only Rs 80 billion is made available, then the outstanding cycle would eventually reduce to 90 days.

Several domestic firms and multinational vendors such as STL, Vihaan Networks Limited (VNL), Aksh OptiFibre and Paramount Wires and Cables Limited (PWCL) as well as Finnish Nokia, Chinese ZTE and UTStarcom have been seeking the release of their dues since March 2019.

Recently, BSNL had released a sum of more than Rs 5 billion to stressed domestic firms.