Corporatisation of PSUs

The Central government issues an ordinance, the Essential Defence Services Ordinance, to prevent the proposed strike by defence civilian employees from July 26

Published : July 02, 2021 14:32 IST

Defence civilian employees take part in a protest rally against the Central government’s proposed corporatisation of the OFB, in Jabalpur, a file photo. Photo: PTI

The promulgation of the EDSO on the night of June 30 comes in the wake of the three main recognised federations of defence civilian employees, along with two others (who collectively represent around 76,000 defence civilian employees), calling for an indefinite strike from July 26 protesting against the Union Cabinet’s decision to split the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) into seven government-owned, corporate entities.

 

The Left parties, including the Communist Party of India (CPI), and trade union bodies such as the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) have strongly condemned the Narendra Modi government’s decision to promulgate the Essential Defence Services Ordinance, 2021 (EDSO) that in effect prohibits all employees engaged in essential defence services from taking part in any industrial action or strike. Terming the EDSO a draconian ordinance that was against the legal rights of employees and against the various ILO conventions, they have demanded its immediate withdrawal.

The promulgation of the EDSO on the night of June 30 comes in the wake of the three main recognised federations of defence civilian employees, along with two others (who collectively represent around 76,000 defence civilian employees), calling for an indefinite strike from July 26 protesting against the Union Cabinet’s decision to split the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) into seven government-owned, corporate entities. Under the umbrella of the nearly 200-year-old OFB, 41 factories spread across India manufacture hundreds of items for the armed forces, ranging from complex weapons systems and ammunition to military equipment.

The federations have said the plan to corporatise the OFB was “arbitrary, one sided and a biased decision” and in violation of all the previous written agreements and assurances the government had given them. They have rubbished the government’s claims that the move is aimed at improving the accountability, efficiency, and competitiveness of the OFB factories and are calling for the corporatisation plans to be immediately scrapped.

Office-bearers of the federations said that the EDSO, a rechristening and implementation of the Essential Services Maintenance Act that was enacted in 1968, was “yet another move by the Modi government to crush the democratic rights and justified battle of the defence civilian workers”. They added that the government wants to curb the proposed indefinite strike of the defence civilian employees of the OFB with an iron hand.

The Modi government’s EDSO gazette notification stated that President Ram Nath Kovind “is satisfied that circumstance exists for the Ordinance as Parliament is not in session”. States the Law Ministry notification: “Any person, who commences a strike which is illegal under this Ordinance or goes or remains on, or otherwise takes part in, any such strike, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine which may extend to Rs 10,000 or both.”

The EDSO came into immediate effect and is applicable to all employees involved in the production of defence equipment, services and operation or maintenance of any industrial establishment connected with the military or those employed in repair and maintenance of defence products.

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