Podcast: Cabinet's Diwali bonanza for PSU telcos, fuel retailers, others

Here's a quick look at key decisions taken by the Union Cabinet

Communications and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad (right) at a press conference with Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri

The Cabinet announced a major Diwali bonanza after market hours on Wednesday by approving a revival plan of BSNL and MTNL, easing fuel retail norms, regularising unauthorised colonies in Delhi and raising the minimum support price for rabi crops.

It cleared the air on the fate of the two financially-stressed state-owned telecom companies, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL), by approved a package of nearly Rs 70,000 crore, and drawing up a timeline for their merger.

As part of the relief package, Rs 37,500 crore worth of the telco’s real estate assets will be monetised to retire debt, upgrade networks and offer a voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) aimed at reducing the companies’ employee strength by half.

Some analysts believe the decision might not meaningfully revive both companies, but it will create some competition for private players and help contain operational costs.

In another important decision for fuel-marketing companies, the Cabinet paved the way for new players in the sector. It scrapped the rule that mandated a company to commit at least Rs 2,000-crore investment in the petroleum sector. So, now, newer players like Total, Adani, and Saudi Aramco and even some super markets can open outlets for selling automobile fuel. To know more, listen to this podcast...