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Saturday, October 31, 2020

Congress letter-writers are back, now attack govt’s defence policies

The signatories to this joint statement are Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, Congress Deputy Leader in Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma, Rajya Sabha MPs Kapil Sibal and Vivek Tankha, and Lok Sabha MPs Shashi Tharoor and Manish Tewari.

Written by Manoj CG | New Delhi | October 9, 2020 1:40:08 am
Congress letter writers, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma, Kapil Sibal, Vivek Tankha, Shashi Tharoor, Manish TewariThe leaders had earlier demanded sweeping changes in the party and the appointment of a “full-time and effective leadership”.

A group of senior Congress leaders—who were among the signatories to the controversial letter to party president Sonia Gandhi—Thursday slammed the Narendra Modi government for the proposed privatization of ordnance factories, changes in the FDI policy and “dilution” of the defence offsets policy, saying the decisions compromise national security interests.

The signatories to this joint statement are Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, Congress Deputy Leader in Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma, Rajya Sabha MPs Kapil Sibal and Vivek Tankha, and Lok Sabha MPs Shashi Tharoor and Manish Tewari. All of them had demanding sweeping changes in the party and the appointment of a “full-time and effective leadership”.

“We have decided that there are a large number of issues that get ignored by the opposition which we propose to highlight. The Congress party cannot get trapped in a very narrow agenda. There is so much happening in India…we are very much within our right as senior leaders to raise such issues which concern India as a democracy,” one of these leaders told The Indian Express, requesting anonymity.

Asked about the party’s view, Congress communication department head Randeep Surjewala said: “The Congress has already held an official press conference in May criticising the privatisation of ordnance factories. And no less than former Defence Minister A K Antony had also issued a statement. We had also pointed out that the dilution of the defence offsets policy will compromise the security interests of India…..What is being said by Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad is in tune with the party line.”

In the statement, the leaders—five of them former union ministers—claimed that the recent decisions of the BJP government regarding the defence sector, especially the proposed privatization of the 41 ordnance factories, changes in the FDI policy and “dilution” of the defence offsets policy—including dispensing with the condition of transfer of technology in acquisition of weapons and equipment for the armed forces—“are deeply disturbing”.

“These decisions compromise national security interests and will have long term implications for India’s defense preparedness and in becoming a self- reliant nation. These decisions are also in conflict with the Government’s Make in India campaign and Atamnirbhar Bharat Mission,” the statement read.

They said nearly 70,000 employees of all the 41 ordnance factories across India are on a month-long strike to protest against the “corporatisation” of the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB).

The ordnance factories, they said, have huge infrastructure, production capacities and real estate at strategic locations across the country.

“These are valuable national assets which cannot be squandered away. What is needed today is infusion of technology, manpower training and acquisition orders by the armed forces. Handing over the factories and assets to the private sector is bereft of any justification and against India’s national interest,” they said. “We demand that the government review and reverse these decisions and policy changes in national interest.”

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