INDIA. Mumbai: Over 70,000 employees working in 41 ordnance factories across the country are up in arms, against the Union Government’s move to corporatize the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) and set up 7 public undertakings to boost defence production.
On Wednesday the Union cabinet cleared a proposal to overhaul the OFB and split it into seven companies to improve productivity and create specializations in weapons manufacturing, improve their accountability, efficiency, and competitiveness. The plan was pending for over two decades.
Describing it as a “historic decision”, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said that there will be no change in service conditions of employees of the organization, and the decision is driven by efforts to boost India’s defence manufacturing sector. The seven entities will be like any other defence public sector undertaking (DPSU) and they will be operated by professional management with a larger goal of enhancing the product range, and improve cost-efficiency. The reform process is being implemented as part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision for self-reliance in the defence sector.
All employees of OFB (Group A, B, and C) belonging to the production units would be transferred to the corporate entities on deemed deputation initially for two years without altering their service conditions as central government employees. The pension liabilities of the retired and existing employees will continue to be borne by the government.
The entities will include an ammunition and explosives group, vehicles group, weapons and equipment group, ‘troop comfort items group’, ancillary group, optoelectronics group, and parachute group. The ammunition and explosives group would be mainly engaged in the production of ammunition of various calibre and explosives and its focus would be to exploit the huge potential to grow exponentially including for the export market.
The vehicles group would mainly engage in the production of defence mobility and combat vehicles such as tanks, BMPs (infantry fighting vehicle), and mine protected vehicles. The focus of the group would be to increase its share in the domestic market through better capacity utilization and also to explore new export markets.
The weapons and equipment group would be mainly engaged in the production of small arms, medium, and large-calibre guns, and other weapon systems and is expected to increase its share in the domestic market through meeting domestic demand as well as product diversification.
At present, the OFB functions under the department of defence production of the Union Ministry of Defence. The government spends around Rs 5,000 crore annually to pay the salaries of the OFB employees. Additionally, it gives around Rs 3,000 crore to OFB as an operational cost. The ordnance factories were set up as “captive centres” to serve the needs of the armed forces, but they have been facing performance-related issues for a long time.
However, the employees are planning to organize agitation and burn the effigies of the “corporatization” in front of their respective offices on Saturday. The employees’ unions will decide the future course of action in a virtual meeting being organized on Sunday, R Srinivasan, General Secretary, Indian National Defence Workers Federation (INDWF) told the “Transcontinental Times”.
The call for protest has jointly been given by the three national-level trade unions namely All Indian Defence Employees Federation (AIDEF), Indian National Defence Workers Federation(INDWF), and Bhartiya Pratiraksha Mazdoor Sangh (BPMS) having employees from 41 ordnance factories. The government is ignoring our protest and going ahead to implement its decision of ruining the 220 years old strategic defence Industry, Srinivasan said.
Tapan Sen, General Secretary of Centre of Indian Trade Unions(CITU) denounced the “destructive” decision to corporatize the ordnance factories. Over 75 five percent requirements of our defence forces are being successfully and timely produced by our Ordnance Factories with incomparable efficiency and assured quality. Country’s Ordnance Factories network is an unquestionable example of “Atmanirbhar Bharat”, the phrase being so much noisily touted by the Modi Govt, in the respective areas of production and services.
In the meanwhile, the Air Force Wives Welfare Association(AFWA) based in Thane, neighbouring Mumbai is implementing a drive to distribute free ration and food packets to the needy people during the ongoing coronavirus-induced lockdown. The AFWA recently distributed ration to over 50 needy persons at Azad Nagar in Thane. The AFWA was formed on October 28, 1970, to help retired air force employees and families of the disabled and late employees. It has also been regularly organizing programs to provide relief to the poor people in and around Thane for the last many years.