The government on Thursday introduced a bill in Lok Sabha which seeks to prohibit any agitation and strike by anyone engaged in the essential defence services.
The Essential Defence Services Bill, 2021, introduced by Minister of State for Defence Ajay Bhatt amid din created by the Opposition over three new agri laws and the alleged Pegasus snooping controversy, seeks to replace an ordinance issued in June.
According to the Statements of Objects and Reasons of the Bill, Indian Ordnance Factories is the oldest and largest industrial set up which functions under the Department of Defence Production of the Ministry of Defence.
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 the state-of-the-art battlefield equipment.
In order to improve autonomy, accountability and efficiency in ordnance supplies, the government decided to convert the Ordnance Factory Board into one or more one hundred per cent government-owned corporate entity or entities to be registered under the provisions of the Companies Act, 2013.
Against the decision, the recognised federations of the employees gave a notice for an indefinite strike.
The conciliation proceedings initiated by the government at the level of Chief Labour Commissioner failed in the meeting held on June 15.
On June, 16, the government decided to convert the Ordnance Factory Board into seven Defence Public Sector Undertakings.
'In spite of the government's assurance to take care of the conditions of service of the employees of the Ordnance Factory Board, the recognised federations of the employees have reiterated their intention to go on an indefinite strike from July 26.
'Since, it is essential that an uninterrupted supply of ordnance items to the armed forces be maintained for the defence preparedness of the country and the ordnance factories continue to function without any disruptions, especially in view of the prevailing situation on the northern front of the country, it was felt necessary that the government should have power to meet the emergency created by such attempts and ensure the maintenance of essential defence services in all establishments connected with defence, in public interest or interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India or security of any State or decency or morality,' it read.
The Statement of Objects said the ordinance issued on June 30 defines the expressions 'essential defence services' and 'strike'.
It also empowers the central government to prohibit strike in essential defence services and provides for disciplinary action, including dismissal, against employees participating in strike.
It also provides for penalties for 'illegal strikes, instigation thereof and providing for financial aid to such illegal strikes'.