A Bill to stop strikes at ordnance factories

Source: Indian Express

Introduced: Lok Sabha (22nd July 2021)

Passed: Lok Sabha (3rd August 2021) and Rajya Sabha (5th August 2021)

Present status: Received the assent of the President on the 11th August 2021.


About the Essential Defence Services Bill

Relevance: This is an example of government powers to restrict the function of pressure groups for the same of national security.

Synopsis: The Minister of State for Defence introduced the Essential Defence Services Bill in the Lok Sabha.

  • Indian Ordnance Factories is the oldest and largest industrial setup. It functions under the Department of Defence Production of the Ministry of Defence. These factories form an integrated base for the indigenous production of defense hardware and equipment.
  • Its primary objective is self-reliance and equipping the armed forces with state-of-the-art battlefield equipment.
  • In June, the government announced corporatization of the Ordnance Factory Board.
    • Under this, the 41 factories of ammunition, and other equipment to the armed forces will become part of seven government-owned corporate entities.
    • The Defence Minister had assured that the interests of the OFB employees will be safeguarded.
Need of reforms:
  1. First, it is essential that an uninterrupted supply of ordnance items to the armed forces be maintained for the defence preparedness of the country. Also, it is necessary that ordnance factories continue to function without any disruptions. The Government should have the power to meet the emergency.
  2. Second, the move is aimed at improving the efficiency and accountability of these factories.
  3. Third, the Bill mentioned that there is a threat that the employees of these factories can go on a strike against the decision of corporatisation of the Ordnance Factory Board.
    • The recognized federations of the employees gave a notice for an indefinite strike. Following this, the conciliation proceedings initiated by the Government at the level of the Chief Labour Commissioner failed.
    • Now, the recognised federations of the employees have reiterated their intention to go on indefinite strike from July 26.
    • For the same purposes, the government had promulgated the Essential Defence Services Ordinance on June 30.
Key provisions of the Essential Defence Services Bill
  1. Aims and objective: it is aimed at preventing the staff of the government-owned ordnance factories from going on a strike. It is meant to provide for the maintenance of essential defense services to secure the security of the nation and the life and property of the public at large.
  2. Power and functions of the government: The Bill empowers the government to declare services mentioned in it as essential defence services. It also prohibits strikes and lockouts in any industrial establishment or unit engaged in essential defence services.
  3. Who will it affect? It has a direct bearing on around 70,000 employees of the 41 ordnance factories around the country, who are unhappy with the corporatization of OFB.

However, even the Cabinet note mentioned that there should be no change in the service condition of the employees of the OFB.

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