The Modi government has finally broken its silence over the fate of 41 Indian Ordnance Factories. On September 24, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) issued the Terms of Reference (ToR) of the high level official committee which has been constituted to address the concerns raised by the defence civilian employees regarding the proposed corporatisation of Ordnance Factory Board (OFB). The communication, however, has only revealed the absence of clarity in the vision of the government, inviting objections from the three recognised federations.
At first, the defence workers’ fronts have conveyed their apprehensions regarding the intention of the Modi government. In the September 24 letter, the MoD has stated that the meeting is to be convened to safeguard the interests of employees “due to converting OFB into a public sector entity.”
However, in an earlier letter dated September 20, it has been mentioned that the said meeting has been called to examine various aspects related to the proposed “restructuring” of OFB.
Bharatiya Pratiraksha Mazdoor Sangh (BPMS), the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)– affiliated union, while responding to this ambiguity, has requested the MoD to immediately provide government's “statement of intent” and clearly specify its “objects, vision, viability aspects and long term perspective.”
Also read: Ordnance Board Cuts Salaries of Workers Who Observed Strike
Moreover, All India Defence Employees’ Federation (AIDEF) has called the ToR “arbitrary”, which is not formulated in consultation with the federations.
C Srikumar, General Secretary of AIDEF told NewsClick, “While the employees have deferred the strike after the assurance given by the Secretary of Defence Production, the Federations have categorically stated that if the Modi government takes any decision to corporatise the Ordnance Factories, then the federations will start the second phase of agitation.”
In addition to this, vital elements of the constitution of the committee have not been made clear to the three federations.
“We don’t know who are the members of the committee from the official side and under what order or notification such a committee has been constituted in the first place,” BPMS General Secretary Mukesh Singh said.
According to the federations, it is essential for them to have a clear understanding and vision of the agenda for constructive participation in the meeting. The first meeting of the high level panel is scheduled on September 30.
Over one lakh defence civilian workers went on a historic nationwide strike against the corporatisation of ordnance factories on August 20. The strike was “called off” after receiving written assurances from the Secretary of Defence Production which had clarified that the government has not yet taken any decision and the concerns of the federations will be considered.
Also read: Defence Civilian Employees to Launch 2nd Phase of Anti-corporatisation Agitation