Can India Become Self-Reliant By Liquidating 41 Indian Ordnance Factories?

When diesel engines, gas turbines and gear train etc. are still being imported, how can we be Atma Nirbhar, ask C. Srikumar, General Secretary, AIDEF

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh while dedicating the indigenously built Coast Guard Ship VIGRAHA to the nation on Saturday, 28-08-2021, claimed the event as an important step towards Atma Nirbar Bharat. He also stated that Indian companies should work towards making the country a Defence manufacturing hub for the whole world.

This statement of the Defence Minister has come at a time when the four lakh Defence civilian employees are in a war path against the Government decision to splinter the 41 Indian Ordnance Factories into 7 Corporations and also against the Government decision to ban the strike by passing the Essential Defence Services Act 2021. approached C. Srikumar, General Secretary of All India Defence Employees Federation (AIDEF) and asked for his views on the statement made by the Defence Minister at this crucial juncture. His statement is given here for the benefit of our viewers. Building ships structurally has been indigenized long ago. That is the structure of hull, cabins, decks etc., and installing services like plumbing pumps and Motors etc., However diesel engines, gas turbines and gear train are still imported.

But the Arms fitted in these ships are imported from Italy and Sweden etc., What is worrying us and patriotic citizens of this country is that when the Minister speaks about self reliant and indigenization, how can the same be achieved by liquidating the 41 Ordnance Factories which are the pioneers in self reliance and indigenization of Defence production in our country.

Government is making big claims that by Corporatizing the Ordnance Factories, it may do miracles and wonders. The Government is not prepared to listen to the Federations to assess the viability of the 7 Corporations since Government is not prepared to provide workload to fully utilize the available capacities and required financial support. The latest Defence Procurement procedure (DPP) has no provision for providing workload on nomination basis except for products exclusively developed for the Armed Forces with prior approval of DAC. All the existing products of Ordnance Factories will be out .

Moreover there is a question on the ability of MoD to purchase the items required for the Armed Forces as they have already huge commitment for imported items. Hence as has been in the past few years, unless existing indent are supported by the budget, these 7 Corporations cannot supply. In such a situation how the Corporations will ensure salary to their own employees. Salary can be paid to the employees only if they remain as Government employees from the consolidated fund of India.

We fail to understand why the MoD is not opening the KPMG report and the Cabinet notes and the minutes of the meetings of the EGOM. If their intentions are clear and transparent then why the same is being denied to the Federations. Is MoD wanting to escape from any criticism ? Unfortunately, the officials behind all these decisions making are buying time till the retire or moved out to other Ministries . They wanted to pass on the sticky gum to their successor after ensuring their own higher positions and ofcourse pension.

The Federations demanded to the Secretary (DP) to show the roadmap how the 7 Corporations can achieve Rs.30,000 crores. Why the DDP should shy away to give the projection. He is not prepared to even consider the alternative proposals given by the Federations to continue the Ordnance Factories in the Government setup itself. From all these discussions going on for the past more than one year, it seems the DDP knows only 3 words, Accountability, Flexibility and Autonomy and go on repeating these 3 words like a parrot.

What do they mean by these 3 words we doubt whether they themselves know the meaning of these words. The DDP has made an Interim Board of Directors to rescue the DDP from the deep sea. The Interim Board corpus is Rs. One lakh only. This may not be even sufficient for one trip of a director with his hotel stay. With one lakh investment in each of the 7 Corporations they will like to get all their assets. Now it is an era of monetization. The employees too can be monetized given the current trend. The employees can be put for auction by asking whether they want to remain in Government or they want to join the corporation. If they join the Corporation they are likely to stay months together without salary.

If the Ordnance Factories had not performed, it is to blame the DDP for they were in the driver seat. I would like to quote here what Justice DY Chandrachud, Supreme Court Judge has recently stated “ Intellectual Citizens have a duty to expose lies of the states”. Therefore, as responsible and intellectual citizens, the Defence civilian employees are opposing the Corporatization decision of the Government.

Time has come to fix accountability on those people who wants to destroy the National assets of 41 Ordnance Factories built for more than two centuries. The agenda of the Government is very clear. As P.Chidambaram, the former Finance Minister had told, that the country is ready for the Grand Bargain closing down sale and get ready to welcome the monopolists. The purpose of breaking the Ordnance Factories into 7 pieces is nothing but to sell the same easily. Why the Defence Civilian Employees should fall prey to the evil agenda of the DDP.

We may not be intellectuals, but we are patriotic citizens. Nobody can fool us easily. The employees are not prepared to believe the good stories being painted by the DDP and their supporters. We made a challenge to the Secretary (DP) to conduct a referendum amongst the employees of Ordnance Factories to find out whether they support corporatization or reject corporatization so that the truth will come out. The Secretary (DP) is not prepared to accept this challenge.

Patriotic citizens and the Defence civilian employees will continue their battle to save the Indian Ordnance Factories and its employees, inspite of the Government crushing their democratic and constitutional rights to protest by passing the draconian EDSA 2021 in the Parliament.

Views expressed here are those of C. Srikumar, General Secretary of All India Defence Employees Federation (AIDEF)

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