Today’s (Tuesday’s) Kolkata Edition of Times of India daily carried a News item that the Rifle Factory Ishapore (RFI) will now pitch for orders for its Close Quarter Battle (CQB Carbine) for the Army, now that the Ministry of Defence has cancelled orders from the United Arab Emirates. The Army needs 93,895 Carbines and was to place orders with the Caracal Group of UAE in 2018. RFI has developed an advanced 5.56mm x 45mm Carbine that is undergoing evaluation. RFI was the primary supplier of the 5.56mm INSAS Rifle to the Army and were manufacturing nearly 1 lakh Rifles per annum. Due to the Government policy and the delay on the part of the Army in deciding about the future requirement of Small Arms for the Indian Army, the RFI has no order from the Army for the past few years.
While series of Articles are being published in the Media, ever since the announcement on the 16th of May 2020 about the Corporatisation of the OFB abusing the Ordnance Factories and its work force without any knowledge of what is happening in Ordnance Factories, the factual position has never come before the public. It is the first time that after the announcement of the Corporatisation of OFB a News item has come in the Press about the performance of one of the Ordnance Factories.
Some of the criticism which appeared in the Press are that the OFs are unable to absorb the Technology, poor quality, high cost, delays in deliveries, absence of R&D and that there is a lack of professional approach without any basis and supportive materials to substantiate their claim. These Defence Experts conveniently forgets that the Government has given the mandate to OFB to undertake R&D activities only in 2006. Thereafter 42 Ordnance Development Centers were established to carry out R&D activities. Let us see some of the important achievements in the field of R&D in the Ordnance Factories.
The Gun Garriage Factory Jabalpur another oldest Ordnance Factory has indigenously developed the Dhanush Gun, which is a 155mm x 45mm Calibre Modern Artillary Gun System. This is a pure R&D project of the Ordnance Factories. By this the Ordnance Factories has established itself as a Original Equipment Manufacturer of Modern Artillary Gun System. The second one is the “Sharang” which is an Up-gunned Version of the Old Soviet-era 130mm Gun to a 155mm x 45mm Calibre Artillary Gun which was handed over to Army during the Def Expo at Lucknow in Feb. 2020. Apart from these many new products, such as 40mm UBGL Ammunition to the Electronic point Detonation Fuze, the multi mode Grenade, the 7.62 x 51mm Assault Rifle, the 7.62 x 51mm Sniper Rifle, 5.56 x 30mm the Joint Venture Protective Carbine Alfa Version, Bullet Resistant Jacket etc., the indigenous T-90 Engine is more than 30% less cost as compared to the imported one. There are many such items which are less expensive, than there imported versions.
Are these achievements can be of a stagnant Organisation which is the general allegation against the OFB. The critics of Ordnance Factories, when they write Articles never mentioned a word about the above achievements of the Ordnance Factories. Ordnance Factories are not a stagnant Organisation. It is a dynamic Organisation which has got a committed and dedicated work force and works with a professional attitude and approach. I can only pity for these critics.
The Government of India is bent upon to Corporatise the Ordnance Factories without any basis and reasons. As all of us know Corporatisation of OFB is to Privatise the same. The workforce of the Ordnance Factories and patriotic citizens of the country are opposing the decision. The three Federations Viz AIDEF, INDWF & BPMS have given valuable alternative suggestions for strengthening the existing set up of OFB and for further improvement, since improvement in any organization is a continuous process. However the Government has totally ignored the suggestions of the Federations and is going ahead with its ill conceived decision. The issue was raised in the Parliament also by some of the Members of Parliament.
No manufacturing Industry in this country can match the Ordnance Factories. Unfortunately in the name of Defence secrets the Ordnance Factories were never allowed to open its mouth and propagate about its achievements and its role in National Security and Defence preparedness. The Ordnance Factories remained with a dignified silence and was doing its National responsibility silently without any publicity. The decision of the Government to convert OFB in to a Corporation means it is hammering the last nail in the Coffin. I am confident that the Employees of Ordnance Factories and the people of this country will not allow this to happen, and if this were to happen, then it would be a black day in the National Security and Defence preparedness of our country.
The writer of this article is C.Srikumar, the General Secretary of All India Defence Employees Federation and the Convener of AITUC, Public Sector Unions