REACTING TO the Defence Ministry’s decision of an import embargo on 101 items, three federations of ordnance factory workers said for the research, development, and production of these items in India, government entities or public sector undertakings (PSUs) should get preference.
The Department of Military Affairs (DMA) of Ministry of Defence (MoD) has prepared a list of 101 items, for which there will be an embargo on import beyond a stipulated timeline. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh made the announcement on Sunday in a series of tweets.
The Ministry of Defence is now ready for a big push to #AtmanirbharBharat initiative. MoD will introduce import embargo on 101 items beyond given timeline to boost indigenisation of defence production.
— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) August 9, 2020
A press release from the MoD stated that the decision was taken with cue from the announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi of special economic package under Atma-Nirbhar Bharat scheme.
“The list is prepared by MoD after several rounds of consultation with all stakeholders, including Army, Air Force, Navy, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs), Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), and private industry to assess current and future capabilities of the Indian industry for manufacturing various ammunition/weapons/platforms/equipment within India,” the release stated.
The three federations of ordnance factory workers, however, have vehemently opposed one of the key tenets of the Atma-Nirbhar Bharat initiative — the corporatisation of the OFB. On May 16, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced the decision of corporatisation of the OFB for “improving autonomy, accountability and efficiency in ordnance suppliers”.
The federations have said a corporate entity would not be able to survive the unique market environment of defence products that has unstable demand and supply dynamics. From October 12, a countrywide indefinite strike against corporatisation has been called by the three federations — All India Defence Employees’ Federation (AIDEF), a federation of Left unions; Bhartiya Pratiraksha Mazdoor Sangh (BPMS), an arm of RSS-affiliate Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh; and Indian National Defence Workers’ Federation (INDWF) of the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC).
Responding to the government’s announcement on Sunday, C Srikumar, general secretary of AIDEF said, “Even with the existing setup, ordnance factories can manufacture at least 10 of these 101 items. Now that the government has announced an import embargo, we want specific action and timelines, so that this does not merely remain just another announcement. We are also demanding that the government should fix accountability for completion of these timelines. Having said this, we believe that this decision will lead to something, only when preference is given to state-run organisations like DRDO, OFB, and DPSUs, and not the private sector.”
Mukesh Singh, BPMS general secretary, said, “We welcome this decision of the government. But we have one specific demand in this direction. Under the Public Procurement Rules, 2017 pertaining to ‘Preference to Make in India’, it has been categorically stated that preference should be given to the local supplier. We want the OFB to be added to this category.”
R Srinivasan, INDWF general secretary, said, “No one will disagree that stopping the import of items and increasing reliance on products made in India is a necessary step. While we say that the preference should be given to state-run entities, there is urgent need for the government to enhance the capabilities of entities like the OFB, DPSUs, and even the DRDO in the existing structure for them to achieve desired goals.”
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