A DAY before they are slated to take a final call on the strike against proposed corporatisation, representatives of ordnance workers’ federations held a meeting with top officials of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) on Tuesday.
During the meeting, the federations questioned MoD officials that if the state of affairs in the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) was as bad as the government claimed, why was there no action against those responsible or any course correction. The representatives also proposed the formation of an expert committee to make recommendations for restructuring the OFB within the government set up.
On Tuesday, MoD officials held a meeting with representatives of Bhartiya Pratiraksha Mazdoor Sangh (BPMS), an arm of the RSS-affiliate Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, federation of Left unions All India Defence Employees’ Federation (AIDEF), and Indian National Defence Workers’ Federation (INDWF) of the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), along with the office-bearers of the Confederation of Defence Recognised Associations (CDRA).
A joint letter written by these bodies to the secretary of the department of defence production of the MoD read, “The entire workforce has rejected the proposed move of the government to corporatise the ordnance factories since they know the fate of the royal ordnance factories of Britain after their conversion to corporation during 1984 and also the fate of BSNL after 2000. The existing defence public sector undertakings are also in serious crisis. Corporatisation will only benefit private corporates, since they are pressuring the government for their share of the defence budget. Corporatisation of the ordnance factories is not at all in the interest of national security and defence preparedness. Assuming that things in the OFB are bad as claimed by the government, then it must not have happened overnight. How has the MoD allowed the OFB to reach this state of affairs and what is accountability of MoD, which has directly been responsible for its functioning. Has the MoD taken any action against any person in the apex management of the OFB or done course correction?”
The letter further states, “The federations and CDRA are prepared to sit with the government and find a solution on above lines to make the OFB a world leader to achieve defence preparedness. Whatever powers the government is proposing under corporatisation can very well be given to OFB in the present set up. To achieve the above task, the government may constitute a high-level expert committee, in which the federations and CDRA can also be involved, so that a mutually acceptable solution can be made to improve the functioning of the OFB.”
The three main federations of the ordnance factory workers, who have opposed the proposed corporatisation, represent close to 85 per cent of the 82,000-strong workforce from 41 factories across India. The strike ballot called by these federations concluded on June 17, in which workers voted in favour of an indefinite strike. Considering the situation with China along Line of Actual Control (LAC) and the Covid-19 pandemic, however, the final decision will be made in the meeting of federations scheduled on Wednesday.
Recently, the federations also wrote to President Ram Nath Kovind seeking intervention in the process of hiring a consultant for the corporatisation of ordnance factories, citing a complaint to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) about the alleged irregularities.
The MoD has invited an expression of interest-cum-request for proposal for the selection of a consultant for strategising and implementing the proposed corporatisation of OFB.