A dispute triggered by the appointment of Buddhi Prasad Acharya as managing director of Nepal Telecom (NT) has hit the state-owned telecom company hard.
Employees are divided into two factions, and daily functioning has taken a beating, with customer service deteriorating.
The latest development has not only affected internal functioning of NT, but also hit a number of services. People are facing problems like unavailability of network, recharge failure and trouble in repair and maintenance of the ADSL internet service.
The ongoing row has also prevented NT from launching festive promotional schemes to the disappointment of consumers just ahead of Dashain.
With Acharya taking charge of NT, the administration and general department staff are behind him, who comes from a non-technical background, but the engineers of the technical staff have launched a protest which turned ugly on Wednesday with employees trading blows. Acharya is the first MD at NT with a non-technical background.
“Since there is a lot of technical stuff that needs to be looked after from time to time, NTs service has started deteriorating,” said an NT officer from the administration department who supports Acharya.
“This may lead to a system paralysis when the festive celebration reached a peak.” During the Dashain festival, telecommunication service providers witness a multifold growth in their business with increase in usage of voice, data and SMS services among others.
“As of now, the impact has been small. But if the situation continues, the outcome might be terrible,” the official said.
Even though an improvement in the situation seems to be essential at the earliest possible, members of both the factions seem to be adamant about their demands. Non-technical staffers have been saying that MD Acharya should resign to clear the hurdles. One of the active members of the struggle committee at NT said that since it was a technical institution, the top official mush have technical knowledge.
“The NT statute contained a provision that only technical personnel could be appointed as the MD. Around six years ago, the word ‘technical’ was omitted. We did not react at that time with the motive of working in good faith. But now we feel that we have been cheated,” the official said, adding that apart from being a non-technical person, the other issue that makes Acharya’s appointment undesirable is that he has been at NT for only 14 years.
They are of the view that since the chief executive officer at similar other institutions have support staff like chief technical officer (CTO), chief finance officer (CFO) and chief operating officer (COO) to advise him, he can make proper decisions. But in the case of NT, the deputy managing directors (DMD) need to brief the MD. The DMDs are also responsible for several independent departments.
“In this scenario, if the MD is a non-technical person, he cannot understand the sensibilities of each department and cannot coordinate with different departments,” the opposing officials said.
Meanwhile, Acharya said that the capability of a person needed to be judged rather than his qualification. “The goal is to make the institution prosperous. And whoever is capable of doing that should be eligible to hold the position,” Acharya said.
Supporters of Acharya said that the opponents held no legal ground to seek the resignation of the MD since the NT statute does not state that a person from a non-technical background cannot head the organisation.
“Acharya was the most senior among the DMDs, hence he was promoted to the top post,” the officer said, adding that the engineers working in the institution are trying to establish their dominance based on the practice that has continued so far.
NT sources said that the other big reason behind the opposition to Acharya was that he was willing to conduct a technical audit.
“If a technical audit is done, the wrongdoings of a lot of technical staff will get out including that of senior officials,” the officer said.
Of the existing DMDs at NT, one of them is due to retire in mid-November and two others will retire in mid-April and mid-June. The remaining two have terms of two years each. Sources said that a lust for the top post too had played a role in the drive against Acharya.