AS nearly 7,000 workers from the three key defence manufacturing units in Pune joined defence civilians workers across the country against the proposed ‘corporatisation’ of ordnance factories, the production in these units came to a complete halt from Tuesday morning. At the gates of the three factories in Pune, several officers spontaneously joined the striking workers in the protests.
Nearly 82,000 civilian workers from 41 ordnance factories across India started the month-long strike from Tuesday.
Almost all civilian workers from the Ammunition Factory in Khadki, the High Explosives Factory in Khadki and the Ordnance Factory in Dehu Road in Pune began the strike at the respective factory gates from 7 am on Tuesday. Protest meets were organised by the labour unions at the factory gates, where local police had deployed personnel as a precautionary measure.
What is the proposed move and why are workers protesting against it?
According to officials of the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), which has its headquarter in Kolkata, the proposal to convert the Ordnance Factory Board, a subordinate office of the Ministry of Defence, into one or more than one 100 per cent government-owned corporate entity, registered under the Companies Act, 2013, would enhance functional autonomy of the OFB. Officials have said that the objective of corporatisation is to give autonomy to Ordnance Factories to manage their operations in totality. “The move would bring areas like research and development, quality control and financial accounting directly under the management of Ordnance Factories. This transformation of OFB would not only strengthen Ordnance Factories but also make them accountable for their operations. This would improve competitiveness of OFs in the long run, to make them an integral part of indigenous world-class defence production base,” the OFB said in a statement. The unions have opposed the move, raising questions about job guarantee, decrease in government control and competition with the private sector.
The civilian workers participating in the strike are from the All India Defence Employees’ Federation (AIDEF) affiliated to Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) of Communist Party of India, Indian National Defence Workers’ Federation (INDWF) affiliated to Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) of Indian National Congress and Bhartiya Pratiraksha Mazdoor Sangh (BPMS), which is the part of the Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Some key organisations of officers from the ordnance factories have declared moral support for the strike. “In the 10 factories in Maharashtra, including three in Pune, the strike was 100 per cent successful. Even many officers spontaneously joined the strike.” said an office-bearer from one of the unions.
On Tuesday, a group of representatives of the BPMS met activist Anna Hazare in Ralegan Siddhi and briefed him about their concerns. Senior political leaders are expected to meet the workers participating in the strike in Khadki on Wednesday, said union leaders.
The three factories in Pune
Ammunition Factory (AFK), Khadki: The main product of AFK is 5.56 mm INSAS Ammunition developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation and produced by the factory. The facility also produces many other small arms ammunition, mortar bombs, detonators, power cartridges, igniters, squibs and sporting ammunition.
High Explosives Factory (HEF), Khadki: It produces fillings of bombs, missile warheads, ammunition shells, demolition explosives, various propellants and liquid fuels used in missiles like Prithvi and Naval missiles, various plastic explosives, hand grenades and detonators.
Ordnance Factory, Dehu Road: This factory produces illuminating ammunition, signalling ammunition, smoke ammunition, and life-saving munitions like buoyant smokes and flares.