The 22nd Report of the Standing Committee on Defence of the 17th Lok Sabha is now in public domain. On the 18th February 2021 the DDP and the OFB made a presentation before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence. The presentation made by Secretary / OFB has brought out the outline on the growth of Ordnance Factories, R&D, Challenges faced by OFB, Role of OFB in Defence Eco System and how OFB serves as a dedicated production base for military hardware needs of the Armed Forces, with an objective to achieve self-reliance in Defence preparedness of the country. The presentation also dealt with the principal products such as Light Field Gun, AK -630 Naval Gun, Joint Venture Protective Carbine, 7.62×39 mm Trichy Assult Rifle (TAR), Tank T-90 “Bhishma”, MBT “Arjun”, Bridge Layer Tank, BMP-II “SARTH” & Variants, Large Calibre, Medium Calibre, and Small Calibre Ammunition, Brake Parachutes, Drop Parachutes, Troop Comfort Items like uniforms, Winter Clothing, Tents etc. The presentation also brought out the 20 new products introduce by OFB to the Armed Forces, overhauling of Armored Vehicles etc. The presentation also dealt in detail the contribution made by the Ordnance Factories during COVID-19 Lockdown in manufacturing medical mask, non-medical mask, PPE coverall, sanitizer and medical tents.
As regards the challenges faced by OFB the presentation dealt on quality, high cost, and delay in supply, supervisory, high cost, per employee productivity, export share etc. on a perusal of the Minutes of the fifth sitting of the Standing Committee on Defence (2020-21) held on 18/02/2021 it is revealed that the members of Parliament raised their view points on the major issues including the Corporatization of OFB.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee has dealt in detail in its report about Corporatization of the Ordnance Factory Board. The Ministry of Defence in its written reply to the Committee has given the methodology of converting the OFB into a single Defence Public Sector Undertaking (DPSU) or as multiple DPSUs. On being asked by the Committee regarding re-structuring of Ordnance Factories and whether budget for re-structuring is being provided for Ministry of Defence or it is arranged from internal resources, the Ministry has stated in their written reply as under:-
“ with a view to improve autonomy , accountability and efficiency in Ordnance supplies, the government has decided to convert OFB, presently a subordinate office of Department of Defence Production into a 100% Government owned Public Sector Unit”
Today (23/03/2021) a press release issued by the Lok Sabha Secretariat reveals that the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence has made the following observations / recommendations on the Government decision on corporatization of the Ordnance Factory Board.
“The Committee recommended that the details of the conversion of the Ordnance Factory Board in to one or more than one 100% Government-owned Corporate entities be shared with them and the Ministry should weigh all the pros and cons in favour of OFB before arriving a any finality on the findings of the consultants appointed for this conversion process”
www.indianpsu.com contacted C Srikumar, General Secretary of All India Defence Employees Federation and asked him specific pin-pointed questions with regards to the Parliamentary Standing Committee report and the statement made by the Defence Ministry before the Standing Committee on the Corporatization of Ordnance Factories.
Question : Have you gone through the 22nd Report of the Standing Committee on Defence, if your answer is yes then what is your observation?
Answer : Yes I have gone through the Report. The Government has attempted to make the Parliamentary Standing Committee also a party for its arbitrary decision in violation of the previous written assurances given by the past Defence Ministers to the Federation that OFB would not be corporatized. The DDP some how wanted to justify its position for including the corporatization of OFB in the 100 days Action plan of the Modi -02 Government. We are repeatedly telling that the decision of the Government to corporatize is going to cost an irreversible damage to the Defence Sector making total mockery of so acclaimed “Atmanirbhar Bharat”
Question : What is your opinion on the written reply given by the Ministry of Defence to the Standing Committee on Corporatization of the OFB?
Answer : The Ministry of Defence has conveniently hidden the following information’s facts from the Standing Committee
a. The Government has taken the decision in clear violation of the past written assurances given to the Federations
b. The entire workforce and the Trade Unions have outrightly rejected the arbitrary decision taken by the Government.
c. The employees are on agitation against the Government decision and the Trade Unions and Federations have given a strike notice for indefinite strike against the Government decision
d. A conciliation settlement was reached in the presence of the CLC (C) on 09/10/2020 and according to which the strike was deferred by the Federations
e. Secretary DP asked for alternative proposal to continue OFB in Government setup and also another robust proposal from the Federations. The Federations have submitted a viable and robust proposal which is pending with DDP. No steps taken by DDP to implement our proposals. Our proposals are not placed before the Standing Committee. The Committee is kept in dark.
f. The Government is going ahead to corporatize OFB violating the conciliation settlement and Section 33 of the Industrial Dispute Act 1947
g.The employees have taken a pledge that they reject corporatization and their service conditions cannot be changed in violation of the appointment order issued to them and also in violation of the Constitutional Provisions pertaining to the service of Government employees.
Question : The Parliamentary Standing Committee has cautioned that the Government should weigh the pros and cons of Corporatization of OFB, what is your views on this?
Answer : The Ministry f Defence themselves in the past has stated before the Parliamentary Standing Committee that corporatization of OFB is not feasible due to fluctuation of Workload and the necessity to preserve and maintain war reserve. The AIDEF, INDWF and BPMS have submitted a joint representation to the Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Defence about the ill effects on the Defence preparedness of the country if Ordnance Factories are Corporatized. I believe that keeping these things in mind only the Parliamentary Standing Committee has cautioned the Government about its hasty decision taken without any application of mind. The Federations have requested the Parliamentary Standing Committee to give an appointment to the Federation took place our views against Corporatization of OFB which has not been Granted yet. We may once again approach the Committee.
Question : What will be your next course of Action?
Answer : The Federations will discuss about the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee and the continuing violation of the conciliation settlement and ID Act 1947 by the DDP. and will take appropriate decisions to face the challenges being posed before the Defence Civilian Employees of Ordnance Factories the Defence Civilian employees will unitedly fight back and the Government cannot take them lightly since it is a matter of life and death for them and also a threat to the Defence preparedness of our great Nation which cannot be compromised for fulfilling the desire of the vested interested agencies who will gain if OFB Organization is destroyed.