Defence workers’ unions observing Black Day today against government’s decision to dissolve Ordnance Factory Board

Published : October 01, 2021 12:30 IST

The indigenious Main Battle Tank-Arjun being rolled out, in August 2004, from the Heavy Vehicles Factory that was set up in Avadi in 1961 by the OFB. Photo: THE HINDU ARCHIVES

Workers’ unions, including the All India Defence Employees’ Federation and the Bhartiya Pratiraksha Mazdoor Sangh, representing over 75,000 defence civilian employees of the erstwhile 41 ordnance factories are observing a ‘Black Day’ today. They are also planning to boycott their lunch inside the factories. The protest is against the Narendra Modi government’s recent decision to dissolve the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) and transfer the management, control, operations, and maintenance of the 41 production units that come under it to seven wholly government-owned companies. The seven defence public sector units (DPSUs) as announced by the Defence Ministry are Munitions India Ltd, Armoured Vehicles Nigam Ltd, Advanced Weapons and Equipment India Ltd, Troop Comforts Ltd, Yantra India Ltd, India Optel Ltd, and Gliders India Ltd.

The All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) has extended its “solidarity and support to the fighting workers of the ordnance factories”. It termed the Modi government’s decision draconian and unilateral, and said the move would “have a serious impact on the national security of the country, forcing the Indian Army to be at the mercy of private corporates”.

A statement from Amarjeet Kaur, general secretary of the AITUC, stated that the organisation would “continue to remain shoulder to shoulder in this battle against corporatisation and privatisation of the state-owned defence production units”. The AITUC is also critical of the government’s decision to implement what Kaur termed as the “forceful deputation of employees who were recruited as Central government employees/defence civilian employees to the seven corporations without even taking the employees’ consent”.

The government appears determined to go ahead with its OFB reorganisation plan. It has appointed E.R. Sheikh as the first Director General of the Ordnance Directorate (Co-ordination and Services). The Ordnance Directorate is the successor organisation of the OFB. An Indian Ordnance Factory Service (IOFS) officer of the 1984 batch, Sheikh has spearheaded modernisation in the OFB. In particular, he has contributed to the establishment of the modern production line systems for the manufacture of small arms ammunition at the Ordnance Factory Varangaon. A graduate of the IIT, Kanpur, Sheikh has served in various ordnance factories, including as general manager at the Ordnance Factory, Itarsi.