Playing with fire: Ammunition Factory grapples with less staff in Danger Building unit

The number of workers in its two important divisions- Danger Building and Non Danger Building- has manpower distributed in unequal proportions, which has led to dangerous situations.

Written by Sushant Kulkarni | Pune | Updated: March 27, 2016 3:23 am
At the Ammunition Factory, the manufacturing takes place in two sections — the Danger Building where work of filling explosives into the empty cases is done and the Non Danger Building where empty cases are moulded before being sent to the Danger Building. Express At the Ammunition Factory, the manufacturing takes place in two sections — the Danger Building where work of filling explosives into the empty cases is done and the Non Danger Building where empty cases are moulded before being sent to the Danger Building. Express

THE AMMUNITION Factory, Khadki (AFK), which is one of the major manufacturers of ammunition for the Indian defence forces, is grappling with a serious problem, which is affecting the over-all production and at the same time, creating loopholes in safety issues—lesser staff at its Danger Building unit.

The factory needs to address at the earliest some serious issues pertaining to distribution of manpower. The number of workers in its two important divisions- Danger Building and Non Danger Building- has manpower distributed in unequal proportions, which has led to dangerous situations.

AFK manufactures cartridges (bullets) for firearms used by security agencies, grenades, mortar shells, mines, rockets and also cartridges for civilian use. Based on the requirements of various forces, targets are given to individual factories.

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At the AFK, the manufacturing takes place in mainly two sections — the Danger Building where work of filling explosives into the empty cases is done and the Non Danger Building where empty cases are moulded before sending to the Danger Building.

Based on the requirement, the number of man hours to be put in at individual buildings per year are calculated.
As per the latest figures, the requirement of Danger Building man hours is around 38 lakh man hours for one year while that of Non Danger Building is around 24 lakh man hours. In spite of this proportion, the number of Danger Building workers is 1,461 as against that of Non Danger Building workers that is 4,100, a number which is inverse to what is required.

An officer from the AFK said on the condition of anonymity, “This bizarre proportion stems from a cutdown that was made in 2004, when the number of total workers was asked to be brought down from 7,300 to 5,600. Without proper deliberation, the Danger Building workers were reduced in numbers but those in Non Danger Building were kept almost the same. It is always alleged that this was done particularly to favour some people in Non Danger Building as their chances of promotion would increase because of higher numbers in their section.”

Another officer adds, “This proportion has created a bottleneck in the production. We are producing much less than what we can achieve. This inverse number also leads to safety issues. We must understand that staff working in Danger Building need special training in handling explosive chemicals.

When there are cases in which certain targets are to be achieved in a short time, the workers from Non Danger Building, who do not have proper training and experience in handling chemicals are made to work in the Danger Building, leading to accidents. Also, the ratio of worker to supervisor is bizarre. Danger Building has much less number of workers under each supervisor as compared to Non Danger Building.”

In two accidents on May 25, 2014 and and May 15, 2015, in which three workers were seriously injured, none had any prior experience or training of handling chemicals. “Three of the six have completely lost their vision. All were made to work in Danger Building to complete the targets. In case of one more accident, though the worker was from section, his supervisor did not have any experience of Danger Building,” sources said.

Some of the workers’ union at the AFK, Ammunition Factory Employees Union are going to start a hunger strike from Monday and this disparity in the number of workers is key issue that they would be raising.

When The Indian Express wrote to the AFK administration about these issues citing posters put by the union raising these issues, the AFK wrote back saying, “It is informed that Ammunition Factory Employees Union is a non-recognised union. AFK has three recognised unions. This union is in habit of repeatedly making similar representations that are devoid of any merit.” A worker from one of the three other unions, however, said, “Other unions are not raising these issues, as office bearers are getting several perks, concessions in working hours and positions. So no one wants to speak up against the administration.”

What AFK says

Replying to a query sent by The Indian Express on the issue of number of workers, the AFK said,”The strength of Industrial Employees is revised as per the decision from Ministry of Defence and the Ordnance Factory Board depending upon the functional requirements. Danger Building Worker (DBW) is one of the trade. The strength of this trade was revised to 1,461 from 2,801 in the year 2004 as per the sanction for revision from Ordnance Factory Board based on the functional requirement. This revision was carried out in 2004 keeping in view the functional requirements and due consultations with the representatives of Joint Consultative Machinery Level-IV, which consists of representative from the Recognized Unions of the Factory.”

The reply also says, “The General Secretary of the said union has filed an application in Central Administrative Tribunal. The CAT disposed of the application with certain observations and directives. As per the directives, the points as raised by union were deliberated at length and it was reiterated that the sanctioned strength in the trade of DBW is adequate and all training needs are fulfilled including the safety and security aspects.”

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