OFB Corporatization Decision – The Bureaucracy of Ministry of Defence Should Introspect!
The rain seems to have stopped temporarily but it’s still drizzling. Based on an agreement reached in the presence of the Chief Labour Commissioner (Central), the Indefinite Strike of the Ordnance Factory Employees has been postponed. They are fighting against the Government decision of Corporatizing the Ordnance Factories. www.indianpsu.com discussed the present scenario with C. Srikumar, General Secretary of All India Defence Employees Federation (AIDEF) and Convener of PSU Unions of AITUC and two major opinions emerged out of this discussion.
1. OFB Corporatization is a political decision taken by the Narendra Modi Government to favour Corporates.
2. OFB Corporatization is a misguided proposal of bureaucrats approved by the political bosses, again to benefit the private Corporates at the cost of National Security and Defence preparedness.
According to a report published by the Hindustan Times during November 2019, our Prime Minister Narendra Modi while addressing a newly selected Group ‘A’ Civil Service Officers (IAS) from the 2020 – 21 batch, said that top bureaucrats had spoiled his first five-years tenure but he would not allow them to do the same in his second term. “Apane mere panch saal barbad kiye hai, main apko agle paanch saal barbad nahi karne doongaa”, he said. A large section of the people of our country are of the firm view that the present day bureaucracy is not for serving the people, but they are interested only in saving their position or go to any extent for getting better positions in the Government and Institutions abroad.
The first Home Minister of our country Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel while addressing Civil Servants in an Independent India laid down certain principles of “Swarajya to Surajya” or “good governance”. “Your Predecessors (In British Raj) were brought up in the traditions in which they kept themselves aloof from the reach of the common people. It will be your bounden duty to treat the common man in India as your own” he said on 21st April, 1947 and this day is celebrated in India as “Civil Service Day”. He once told IAS Officers “today my Secretary can write a note opposed to my views. I have given that freedom to all my Secretaries, I have told them if you don’t give your heartfelt opinion for fear that it will displease your Minister, please then you better go, I will bring another Secretary” “I will never be displeased over a frank expression of opinion” said Sardar Patel to the Indian bureaucracy which he described as “ the Steel Frame” of India’s Government machinery. However, today the irony is that the country is debating whether it is a steel frame or a steel cage.
Dr. Ambedkar, the Architect of Indian Constitution said “People are more concerned with good administration than with good laws. Law may be good but its administration may be bad. Whatever the administration of law turns out to be, good or bad depends upon the freedom of the Officer who is appointed to administer it when there is only one political party, the Officer is at the mercy of the political chief called the Minister. The Minister’s existence depends upon pleasing the voters and often the Minister is required to force the Officer to do wrong to please the voters. If there was an opposition party, then such action of the Minister would be exposed and the mischief be stopped”.
Nehru told that the bureaucracy in India should be an enlightened one, the Officers should have delved deep into the problems of Indians. They should posses a foresight and deep vision in the Administration of India. They should not passively carry out the orders, rather they should give their valuable suggestions on any matter whenever their opinion is sought. This will promote the Administration in India.
You may wonder why I am prolonging the preamble portion of this article. I thought it is essential at this point of time when the Nation is entangled with COVID-19 pandemic, unprecedented political and economical crisis, job losses, closure of Industries, labour exploitation, miseries of farmers and agriculture workers, unresolved migrant labour problems, outright privatisation, sale of National Assets, denial of Justice to the common man, atrocities against women, Dalits, children, minorities, India’s slipping down on all indices which measure peoples well being such as health, education, corruption and press freedom etc. India’s ranking slipping to 103 among 119 countries on Global Hunger Index and fastest falling GDP (-24%) even below Bangladesh. There is a total collapse of the Governance and Administrative machinery of our Country. Every IAS Officer who completes his induction training in the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Acadamy of Administration has to take an oath that he / she shall always uphold the Constitution and abide by it in discharging his duties . All of us know the Civil Service Officers are duty bound to sincerely implement the policies and programme of a democratically elected Government. Unfortunately the bureaucrats forgets that their services are not designed to behave as the agents of the ruling party. They are not expected to dance according to the tune of the ruling party. Their role is to advise the Government after thorough study of the proposals of the political bosses, its implication on the people and the Country and bring to their notice through noting. Their role is also not to misguide the political basses to satisfy the wishes of their political parties or further the Agenda of vested interested groups who are outside the Government, but wanted to run the Government behind the curtain or through back seat driving.
Now let us come to the topic of our Article. In this article I have critically analysed whether the bureaucracy in the Government while processing and proceeding with the implementation of Corporatization of Ordnance Factories have really done justice to their service or has violated the oath they have taken while enrolling in the IAS.
Corporatization of OFB, Is it a political decision of a democratically elected Government, or is it a misguiding and misjudged proposals of the bureaucracy to its political bosses. Only the noting sheets of the Government and the cabinet note will bring out the facts . An RTI application in this regard is pending. Not with standing this. I have gone through the Election Manifesto of the BJP. No where it is mentioned that if they are re elected to power they will Corporatize the Ordnance Factories. Then how this has found a place in the 100 days agenda of the BJP Government. The inside story from reliable sources is that after the BJP came back to power the PMO has asked every Ministry / Department to give its proposals to include in the 100 days agenda of the Modi – 02 Government. Department of Defence production has given the agenda of Corporatization of OFB to the PMO without bringing the assurances given by the previous Defence Ministers, the assurance given before the Parliament and also its own statement before the Defence Parliamentary Standing committee that Corporatization of OFB is not a feasible proposal. The PMO was approved the proposal of DDP and today it has become an issue of major concern for the country since the decision will have far reaching implication on the security of our country and the future of 80,000 employees of Ordnance Factories and their families.
The policy direction of the present Government is known to the people of the Country i.e., Government Departments should be Corporatized and Public Sector should be privatised. The bureaucracy also without application of mind and as an error of judgment has fallen in line with the political basses without properly advising the Government which they are supposed to do, since it is concerning the serious matter of National Security, Defence preparedness and self reliance in Defence and the service of almost 80,000 strong committed and devoted workforce.
The conspiracy against the Ordnance Factories have started long back. After the late Manohar Parikar left the Defence Ministry, the Army and Ministry of Defence have started reducing the workload every year. 275 products being manufactured in the Ordnance Factories were declared as Non Core and to outsource all those products without any concern for the quality of those products and the future survival of more than 25 Ordnance Factories. DRDO has been asked to handover the newly developed technologies to the private sector and not to the Ordnance Factories. All the proposals of the OFB for modernisation, procurement of plant and machinery, recruitment of manpower, cadre restructuring etc., were outright rejected by the MoD bureaucracy. All these decisions are taken only to favour the private Corporates. The repeated representation against all these evil design by the Trade Unions and the Federations have been totally neglected. The bureaucrats who are posted in the MoD / DDP take over the responsibilities without any basic and fundamental knowledge about Defence Industry its intricacies and the Defence preparedness. They take all the policy decisions and after 2 years without any accountability they leave their post and go to other Ministries / Departments or back to their own states. A new setup of bureaucrats again take over and decisions are taken according to their whims and fancies. The ultimate sufferer is the Country its Army and the poor Soldiers. Time has come for an introspection by all concerned. All of them in a loud voice speaks a lot about accountability of Ordnance Factories without any accountability for themselves.
From the foregoing, one thing is clear that the decision to corporatize the Indian Ordnance Factories, whether it is a political or otherwise, is ill conceived, in contravention of the commitments given by earlier four Defence Ministers, not based on facts and figures and not in the interest of the state or its Armed Forces, but only to appease the political bosses and the so called private players, whose contribution of illegitimate money fills up the coffers of vested interested people. If not, why so many cooked-up stories are being floated every day in the electronic and print media by hither to unknown Brigadiers and Generals abusing the products of Indian Ordnance Factories and its committed workforce, from the day one when the Government announced that they are going to Corporatize the OFB. It is high time that the Government should from a committee headed by a Senior Judge of Supreme Court with unbiased Technical experts / Specialists who have got in-depth. Knowledge of the working of Ministry of Defence as Members, to go into the unsavoury happenings taking place in the name of Corporatization of OFB, so as to come out from all these murky issues since nobody has got the right to play with the security of our country for fulfilling their egos and vested interest.
One thing is sure. Inspite of many experts in the field, political parties, Members of Parliament, Trade Unions and patriotic citizens, opposing the decision of the Government with logic and justification, the bureaucracy has taken pain that all these concerns and objections against Corporatization of Ordnance Factories are not brought to the notice of the political basses including the Prime Minister. If Government implement its decision by-passing the concerns on National Security and Defence preparedness time will prove that it is an historical blunder but by the time the damage must have been completed and irreparable . Only the workers movement along with the peoples movement can save the precious and strategic Ordnance Factories from selling out its Rupees One lakh crore worth of National Assets and more than 65,000 acre lands. I believe that in due course of time the movement against Corporatization of Ordnance Factories will become a National movement, since Ordnance Factories are the peoples assets.
Views expressed here are those of C. Srikumar, General Secretary of All India Defence Employees Federation (AIDEF) and Convener of PSU Unions of AITUC