Up in arms against the Centre’s decision to corporatise the 246-year-old Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), recognised federations have given a call to all defence employees to boycott the official inauguration programme of the newly constituted public sector undertakings.
The seven new defence companies, formed after the dissolution of OFB, will be formally inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi through a video conference on October 15. The Central Government had earlier issued an order to dissolve the board that used to oversee the operations of 41 ordnance factories across the country.
The defence employees and their family members will boycott the inaugural programme, the recognised federations said in a circular earlier this week, adding that “the Government decision of Corporatisation [of OFB] is going to ruin the family of each and every employee.”
In a joint decision taken by the All India Defence Employees Federation (AIDEF) and RSS-affiliated Bharatiya Pratiraksha Mazdoor Sangh (BPMS), the defence federations also called the employees to wear black badges on October 15 to register their protest.
In June this year, the Narendra Modi – led Central Government, in a cabinet decision, had approved the plan to convert the OFB into seven new defence PSUs. Engaged in defence equipment manufacturing, the OFB used to operate as a government department under the control of the Department of Defence Production (DDP), which is administered by the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
Subsequently, the MoD had issued an order to transfer, with effect from October 1, the management, control, operations and maintenance of the 41 ordnance factories under the OFB to seven defence companies – Munitions India Limited, Armoured Vehicles Nigam Limited, Advanced Weapons and Equipment India Limited, Troop Comforts Limited, Yantra India Limited, India Optel Limited, and Gliders India Limited.
All OFB employees from different production units have also been transferred to the corporate entities on deemed deputation for an initial period of two years. The Centre has said that in this period service conditions of the defence employees, earlier treated as government employees, will not alter.
Among the major fears of the defence federations that has prompted them to protest against the Centre’s move is the lack of any assurance over the continuation of the service conditions of the 76,000 defence employees after the initial period of 2 years.
Opposing the move, the AIDEF has also filed a petition in the Madras High Court last month, over which the Centre has been served with a notice. The defence federation has also filed a petition in the Delhi High Court to challenge the Essential Defence Services Act 2021.
The Act replaces the Ordinance that was brought by the Centre soon after the defence federations gave a call to stage an indefinite strike in July this year. The legislation empowers the Centre to penalise striking defence employees.