Kolkata: As part of the nationwide call for protests against the Modi government’s decision to break down the 246-year-old Ordnance Factory Board into seven corporate entities, defence civilian employees, led by the All India Defence Employees Federation (AIDEF), burnt the effigies of the government and PM Modi in front of the OFB premises in Kolkata’s Koilaghata area on Saturday, June 19.
All sections of defence civilian employees began spontaneous protests on June 17, a day after the decision to break down the board was cleared in a cabinet meeting of the Modi government on June 16.
If the government moves ahead with the decision then over 4 lakh workers and employees of the defence sector will go an indefinite strike against this move, said C Srikumar, general secretary of the AIDEF, adding that employees across the country have joined the protest against privatisation of the OFB.
The central trade unions have also extended their support to the protest of the defence civilian employees, which was noted in a press statement released by the CTUs. As part of the call for nationwide protest, effigies of the Prime Minister have been burnt across the country by the protesting employees.
It should be noted that the Centre had made a similar attempt to privatise the defence production sector last year too. However, the move was thwarted by a sustained struggle by the employees, who decried the move.
Condemning the move, the joint press release by the central trade unions stated that a strategic sector like defence production cannot be privatised according to the whims of the central government and foreign corporate participation will be thwarted at all costs. If the decision is not changed then the workers will go for continuous strikes, the statement added.
The CTUs also criticised the central government for attempting to sell the country’s assets at a time when the country is beset with the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest decision is in tandem with the government’s anti-worker and anti-farmer policies, the statement said.
Also read: Defence Federations To Discuss Indefinite Strike Against OFB Corporatisation
Further, they reminded the government that six different defence ministers in the past have given written undertakings to not corporatise the OFB, which is not a profitable proposal. By clearing the latest proposal, the Modi Government is not adhering to the promises made by the Defence Ministers of the country, the CTUs noted.
The corporatisation of OFB will also violate the constitutional mandate, the statement said, as “all employees of the defence sector are appointed through all India examinations and their salary and pensions are disbursed following a constitutional mandate, which will not be possible after corporatisation”.
Notably, in a strike ballot last year, over 99% defence civil workers had voted for a continuous strike to thwart the attempt to privatise the defence sector, following which the Modi government had stalled the decision to privatise.
At the time, attempts to increase production of the Ordnance Factory Boards were also taken up. Furthermore, the decision to manufacture ventilators for fighting the pandemic was also taken by the OFB. But now, the government is bypassing all treaties signed with the defence civilian employees by attempting to privatise the OFB, the AIDEF said.
Srikumar said that leaders of various defence civilian workers will take part in a meeting on June 20 to decide the further course of protests.
A joint press release issued by the AIDEF, Indian National Defence Workers Federation and Bharatiya Pratiraksha Mazdoor Sangh, has appealed to the people of country to rise in protest against this move which will have a huge detrimental effect on the country’s strategic interests and defence interests as a whole.