Nearly four lakh defence civilian employees are set to go on a three-day strike from January 23 to January 25, 2019 against privatisation and closure of the defence industry and to demand their rightful pension. The call for the strike has been jointly given by the All India Defence Federation (AIDF), Indian National Defence Workers Federation (INDWF) and Bharatiya Pratiraksha Mazdoor Sangh (BPMS).
The AIDF, in its protest call memorandum, has stated that the defence industry is under serious threat, and so is the right to pension of the government. They have accused the present BJP government of supporting corporate companies by handing over strategic defence production and related to corporates – mainly Ambanis and Adanis.
They have further levelled allegations that the government, to show to the outside world, has implemented the ‘Make in India’ in defence which is a “historical mistake”, as it offloads more than 275 products being manufactured in the 41 ordnance factories as “non-core” due to which more than 25 ordnance factories are severely affected. This raises serious questions about the fate of 85,000 employees who are affected by this move.
The employees have also resolved to stand against the government’s policy decision to close down the military farms which were supplying fresh milk to the soldiers, station workshops under Army, depots under the Army and handing over of eight Army Base Workshops to private sector in the name of GOCO model.
Another important demand is the scrapping of the “draconian” National Pension System (NPS), and to restore the Guaranteed Pension under CCS (pension) Rules 1972.
The Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) has extended full support and solidarity to the three-day strike on January 23-25, 2019 in all defence production units and service centres by all the three employees’ federations representing employees working in the defence production units and service centres and workshops spread throughout the country.
In a press release by the CITU, it has said that this move by the government of India has already rendered half of the ordnance factories redundant, paving way for their closures or sell-outs. Many defence procurement deals are also being hurriedly concluded or going to be concluded with foreign companies for supply of aircrafts, naval frigates etc. giving rise to big scams and huge losses to the national exchequer.
It further stated, “In fact the entire defence procurement policy of the government of India is totally oriented towards destroying indigenous manufacturing capacity in the field of defence production developed during last seven decades under Ordnance Factories, DRDO and Defence-PSU network despite the fact that more than 75% of the requirements of country’s defence forces are being met indigenously as admitted by the Defence Ministry itself. This is nothing but a grave conspiracy against the national security to make it perpetually dependent on the foreign multinational companies and simultaneously paving the way for destruction of indigenous manufacturing capability.”
At the call of all the central trade unions in the country and federations, the working class have already observed two days countrywide general strike on 8-9 January 2019. They strongly opposed the anti-national policy of defence sector privatisation of the government.”
The press release further stated that the three-day strike by the defence employees against such disastrous move of the BJP-led government is a struggle also to defend the national interests and national security in particular. This struggle must have the support and solidarity from the entire people, it added.
CITU, while denouncing the brazen anti-worker policies of the Narendra Modi, has called upon the working people of all affiliations and the trade union movement in general to extend wholehearted support , and organise solidarity mobilisations countrywide on the strike days.
Tapan Sen, Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha, and general secretary of CITU told Newsclick, “These are disastrous policies of the Indian government which are 50 per cent factories return-redundant. As we can see from the Rafale scam, they are systematically weakening the defence sector of the country, and are also leading the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited into huge losses.”
He further said that the Rafale scam has shown the Indian government’s departure from India’s defence policies since independence, and has made the country’s defence forces perpetually dependant on private companies; therefore, this can be termed anti- national.
“The three-day strike by the defence employees is not just a struggle for the employees to meet their demands but it is also in national interest. It is a patriotic struggle to save the defence services, and therefore, CITU extends its full support to the strike, and we stand in solidarity with all the workers across all the sectors participating in this strike,” he added.