New Delhi: The government on Wednesday came out with an ordinance prohibiting any agitation and strike by anyone engaged in the essential defence services. The Essential Defence Services Ordinance 2021 comes in the backdrop of the announcement by major federations of the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) to go on indefinite strike from the later part of next month in protest against the government’s decision to corporatise the OFB.
A gazette notification said employees involved in the production of defence equipment, services and operation or maintenance of any industrial establishment connected with the military as well as those employed in repair and maintenance of defence products will come under the purview of the ordinance. “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 notification issued by the Law Ministry said.
It said anyone instigating or inciting others to take part in a strike declared illegal under the Ordinance shall also be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend up to two years besides prescribed fines. The government on June 16 approved a long-pending proposal to restructure the nearly 200-year-old Ordnance Factory Board that operates 41 ammunition and military equipment production facilities into seven state-owned corporate entities to improve its accountability, efficiency and competitiveness.
Following the approval by the Union Cabinet, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said there will be no change in service conditions of nearly 70,000 employees of the organisation and that the decision is driven by efforts to boost India’s defence manufacturing sector. It is not known whether the Ordinance has been brought in view of the threats by the OFB employees to go on indefinite strike.
The gazette notification mentioned that Parliament is not in session and that the President of India is “satisfied that circumstances exist which render it necessary for him to take immediate action." It said the provision of the Ordinance will extend to the whole country services linked to the production of goods or equipment required for any purpose connected with defence will come under its purview.