As many as 70,000 employees of BSNL have already opted for the VRS scheme, which was rolled out on 4th November. BSNL has about 1.5 lakh employees and nearly one lakh employees are eligible for the voluntary retirement scheme, which will end on December 3. "The number of employees who have opted for VRS so far has reached about 70,000. The response has been strong across the board," BSNL chairman and MD PK Purwar told Press Trust of India.

BSNL is looking at savings of about 7,000 crore in annual wage bill, if 70,000-80,000 personnel opt for the scheme.

Last month, the Union Cabinet last month had approved the plan to combine MTNL - which provides services in Mumbai and New Delhi - with Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) that services the rest of the nation.

The rescue package approved by the government includes infusion of 20,140 crore for purchase of 4G spectrum, 3,674 crore for GST to be paid on spectrum allocation, companies raising 15,000 crore in debt on the sovereign guarantee, government funding of 17,160 crore for VRS and another 12,768 crore towards retirement liability.

According to VRS scheme rolled out BSNL, all regular and permanent employees of the company including those on deputation to other organisations or posted outside the corporation on deputation basis, who have attained the age of 50 years or above are eligible to seek voluntary retirement under the scheme.

The amount of ex-gratia for any eligible employee will be equal to 35 days salary for each completed year of service and 25 days salary for every year of service left until superannuation.

MTNL too has rolled out a VRS for its employees. The scheme will also be open for employees till December 3, 2019.

The two firms will also monetise assets worth 37,500 crore in the next three years. MTNL has reported losses in nine of the past 10 years and BSNL too has been ringing in loss since 2010. The total debt on both the companies stood at 40,000 crore, of which half of the liability is on MTNL alone. (With Agency Inputs)