Defence Minister Rajnath Singh introduced ‘The Essential Defence Services Bill, 2021’ in Lok Sabha to empower the Central government to regulate uninterrupted supply of arms, ammunitions and other goods and services to the Armed Forces in case of a strike against a decision to corporatise the Ordnance Factories. The Bill will replace the ordinance promulgated on June 30, 2021.
As mentioned in the ordinance, the Bill intends to define the expressions such as ‘essential defence services’ and ‘strike.’ It aims to empower the Central government to prohibit strike in essential defence services and prescribes for disciplinary action, including dismissal, against employees participating in strike.
It has a provision to levy penalties for illegal strikes, instigation thereof and besides to provide for financial aid to such illegal strikes. It also confers power on any police officer to arrest without warrant any person who is reasonably suspected to have committed any offence under the proposed legislation. Around 70,000 people work with the 41 ordnance factories around the country.
According to the statement of objects and reasons of the Bill, Indian Ordnance Factories is the oldest and largest industrial setup which functions under the Department of Defence Production. The ordnance factories form an integrated base for indigenous production of defence hardware and equipment, with the primary objective of self-reliance in equipping the armed forces with state-of-the-art battlefield equipment.
BACKGROUND: In June the government announced corporatisation of the Ordnance Factory Board, under which the 41 factories ammunition and other equipment to the armed forces will become part of seven government owned corporate entities. The OFB was directly under the Department of Defence Production and worked as an arm of the government. The government has claimed that the move is aimed at improving the efficiency and accountability of these factories.