Ordnance factory unions welcome Rajnath Singh’s import embargo, seek production rights
More than 80,000 civilian employees of India’s 41 ordnance factories will go on indefinite strike from October 12 in protest against the Centre’s decision to corporatise weapon and defence equipment manufacturing units run by the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) of the Union defence ministry.Updated: Aug 11, 2020 20:32 IST
Union defence minister Rajnath Singh’s August 9 announcement that India will no longer import 101 types of weapons and equipment to boost the Make in India programme has been welcomed by ordnance factory workers’ unions although they are all set to strike work from October.
More than 80,000 civilian employees of India’s 41 ordnance factories will go on indefinite strike from October 12 in protest against the Centre’s decision to corporatise weapon and defence equipment manufacturing units run by the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) of the Union defence ministry.
The announcement was made on August 4 by the three national trade unions, including the Bharatiya Pratiraksha Mazdoor Sangh (BPMS) which is affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ideological parent of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
The other two unions, the All India Defence Employees’ Federation (AIDEF) and the Indian National Defence Workers’ Federation (INDWF) are affiliated to the Communist Party of India and the Congress respectively.
Although they have welcomed the import ban, BPMS and AIDEF have demanded exclusive contract for production of certain weapons at OFB plants.
“We welcome the import embargo and creation of a separate budget of about Rs. 52,000 crore for domestic capital procurement in the current fiscal. However, out of these 101 items, those already being manufactured by OFB and the ones it is capable of producing should be earmarked for OFB under the provision of Public Procurement (Preference to Make in India) Order, 2017,” Mukesh Singh, general secretary, BPMS, told HT.
“OFB’s manufacturing capacity is mentioned in the fourth report of Parliamentary standing committee on defence. OFB should also be given a 10 years roll on plan. If the government withdraws its decision to corporatise OFB plants we will withdraw the strike,” Singh added.
“More than 10 items in the embargo list can be straight away manufactured by OFB. But will the government give us the contract?” said C Srikumar, general secretary, AIDEF.
“We feel that the government will encourage private companies to tie up with foreign arms manufacturers to bring in foreign direct investment. Complete knocked down and semi-knocked down kits may be brought from abroad, assembled with screw driver technology and tagged as Made in India. That should not happen,” added Srikumar.
“Even the UPA government was keen on encouraging indigenous production. We welcome what is happening. However, we are not going back on our decision to start indefinite strike from October 12,” said R Srinivasan, general secretary, INDWF.
The OFB headquarters in Kolkata said that as part of the Atma Nirbhar Week programme, three facilities were dedicated to the nation by Rajnath Singh through video conference on Monday. These are the manufacturing facility for T-90 tank sighting devices at Dehradun, the automated assembly line for production of Pinaka rockets at Chandrapur and assembly and testing facility of the 12.7mm M2 NATO standard machine gun at Tiruchirappalli.
As part of the same programme, OFB chairman Hari Mohan on Tuesday presided over the announcement of new products such as the electronic point detonation fuse for 155mm artillery ammunition at the Ambernath factory, 155mm red phosphorus shell made by the Dehu Road plant and extreme cold weather clothing system developed by the Shahjahanpur factory.