Stop Making Conclusions About OFB To Suit Your Pre-Conceived Notions- Says Former DGOF & Chairman/OFB

Reacts to newspaper opinion piece by Admiral Arun Prakash (Retd.)

An article under the caption “In Defence Production, Give Private Sector A Chance” written by Admiral Arun Prakash (Retd.) was published in a leading Newspaper recently. In his Article the Admiral has stated that corporatization of Ordnance Factories may be a step in the right direction, its success would be measured by the enhancement in efficiency, productivity and work ethic, this new paradigm can infuse in workers and management of the newly minted entities. He has also stated that India’s post – Independence quest for self reliance has seen many success, but when it comes to the DPSUs and OFB, their record is lackluster. approached a veteran IOFS Officer who retired as DGOF & Chairman/OFB and asked his views about the article written by Admiral Arun Prakash (Retd.).

The Retired DGOF stated that the Article is nothing but a repetation of the same old broken record. Every body thinks that they are authorities in themselves on Ordnance Factories and make conclusions through selective extraction of information to suit their preconceived futuristic plans for OFB. The Association of Navy is next to nothing in the entire scheme of OFB as OFB’s supplies to Navy is negligible and is less than a percentage of the total issue of OFB. What is therefore his right and competency to sit on judgment on OFB’s futuristic structure. Little do they know that Ordnance Factories are created as a strategic entity taking into consideration safety and security of the assets created through geographical spread, duplication of facilities to ensure continuality of the supplies in the event of destruction of one of the facility. Most of the products are product specific and cannot lend itself for lateral expansion and has to rely on orders from Armed Services. The products which are made in some of the Ordnance Factories which manufacturers Chemicals and Explosives, and some Factories which are basically filling of the ammunitions, with Giant Engineering Factories under the Ordnance Factory Board are interlinked with each other. Just by converting them in to different non-viable corporations, can you make them a versatile facility and make them lend themselves for lateral expansion. At best it is an utopain idea and such metamorphosis the Dept. of Defence Production’s planning would lead to slow and painful disintegration of the assiduously built capacities primarily to ensure Defence preparedness.

A couple of days back I listened to a series being transmitted in one of the TV Channel on Defence, where many speakers connected with Army, DRDO & other Institutions availed the opportunity and blow their trumpets. But unfortunately nobody was there to represent the case of OFB. Some senior officer from OFB should have taken the lead and put across their view point, so that the public can hear and look at the issue in the right perspective. One of the major criticism OFB is facing is with regard to its cost of the products. In fact Ordnance Factories were the first Organisation to introduce costing in the country and is backed a well trained rates and estimate Organisation. The Jambavans who writes articles and participate in debates have conveniently skipped the basic premise on which Ordnance Factories were created and debates are conducted at the superficial level to suit their preconceived conclusions. I can only say with my experience that relying on private sector for Defence requirement at this juncture is like riding a clay horse in a pond. Continuous load to the private sector is impossible because of the very nature of the product, the requirement of which depends on whether we are at a war or at peace. It is unfortunate that the IOFS Officers in harness are a mute spectators. They have not even attempted a semblance of resistance and particularly the DGOF & Chairman who is expected to be the custodian and care taker of OFB and its 76000 committed workforce. also approached C.Srikumar, General Secretary of AIDEF and asked about his views on the Article written by Retd. Admiral and also the views expressed by Retd. DGOF & Chairman.

Responding to our queries he told that public perception unfortunately goes with the views of the so called Generals and Admirals as they are viewed with awe by the public for the reasons best known. Anything which is held in of secret like the deed and misdeeds of the Army officials are viewed with intrigued and mystery and carries and aura around it. What is the experience of Admirals and Generals who live in a cocooned atmosphere and in a regimented organizational Structure. If they criticize that Ordnance Factory products are obsolescent, the Army is squarely responsible. Why did they not clear a perspective plan and they have one, why did they not endavour to associate Ordnance Factories as a Production agency in the long term planning. They have not done this, since their interest was all along for importing the products rather than fall in line with the policy of the Government to maximize indigenization and self reliance. I fully agreed with the views expressed by former DGOF & Chairman with whom I have very closely worked as a Trade Union representative. The decision makers sitting in south Block fail to understand that unlike in a economic entity where the growth rate is predictable, in strategic units like Ordnance Factories where capacity utilization is based on whether we are at war, peace and therefore during peace time the capacities are under utilized leading increased cost of production and consequently has to operate at a loss. Which public private sector would invest and continuously ensure supplies even if it be they have to operate at a loss and eroding in to his capital. Therefore the Ordnance Factories created as strategic entity exclusively for the captive consumption of the Indian Armed Forces irrespective of their economic viability to ensure Defence preparedness cannot survive as a public sector. The feeder factories and finishing factories are located in different geographical locations because of strategic reasons, to ensure flow in supply during any crisis, natural calamity etc. How does the newly created companies overcome the problem of the built in redundancy and the vast distance between feeder and finishing factories entailing significant cost of transportation. No brain storming or application of mind was done by the policy makers before hastily taking the decision of splintering the Ordnance Factories in to 7 Corporations. This we have brought to the notice of the Defence Minister Rajnath Singh also. Unfortunately in this Govt. nobody listens to good and positive advices.

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