Parliament on Thursday passed a bill which allows the central government to prohibit strikes, lockouts, and layoffs in units engaged in essential defence services.
The Essential Defence Services Bill, 2021 was passed by Rajya Sabha on Thursday amid the opposition protest and sloganeering over the Pegasus snooping controversy and the issues of farm laws and price rise.
Lok Sabha passed the bill on August 3.
The bill which seeks to replace the related Ordinance promulgated in June 2021 was tabled in the House for passage and consideration by Minister of State for Defense Ajay Bhatt.
It was passed through a voice vote after a brief discussion amid loud protest by opposition members, some of whom had gathered in the Well of the House.
Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge and some other members sought that the bill be referred to a standing committee for scrutiny.
Replying to a debate on the bill, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said the government wants to increase the efficiency, competitiveness and autonomy of Ordnance Factories and hence it wants to reform them by corporatising them.
"While corporatising them, we have taken care that the service conditions of the employees working in Ordinance Factories are not impacted," he said.
This bill will be effective for a year only and could be applied only when it is invoked by the government.
"We have had talks with all employees' unions which were meaningful," Singh said and expressed hope that the law may not have to be invoked.
Singh also said it has been wrongly claimed that this bill does not permit peaceful protests and added," I want to clarify that this bill does not obstruct the right to peaceful protest."
Participating in the debate, Sujeet Kumar of the BJD supported the bill and said that the country is facing a situation in the northern front of the country wherein we have a hostile neighbour and also a possibility of a two-front war.
"In such a situation, it is necessary to have uninterrupted essential defence services. The government should have the power to maintain the maintenance of essential defence services," he said.
M Shanmugam of the DMK wanted to know what was the need for the corporatisation of Ordinance Factories which are already successful and efficient. According to him, the government is indulging in an illegal act by bringing this bill.
M Thambidurai of the AIADMK supported the bill and said it aims to improve accountability, efficiency and autonomy in ordinance supplies.
Mallikarjun Kharge said this bill was in the additional agenda and was not supposed to be tabled today, but the government have brought this bill to be passed taking the advantage of the opposition protest.
"This bill is very important and is for maintenance of essential defence services and to secure the security of the nation and life and property at large," he said, adding that "this is a plot to denationalise the maintenance and manufacturing of defence."
"I request you to send this to a standing committee, where there would be a detailed discussion by the select committee and the shortcoming in this would be brought out," Kharge said.
Ayodhya Rami Reddy of the YSRCP supported the bill.
Elamaram Kareem of the CPI(M) opposed the bill and said it was a "draconian bill" to prohibit the rights of strike of the working class of this country."
"This bill should be sent to the parliamentary committee for scrutiny. This is against the fundamental laws and ILO conventions," he said.
After the debate, the bill was passed through a voice vote and thereafter Deputy Chairman Harivansh, who was in the chair, adjourned Rajya Sabha till Friday.
According to the Statements 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 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 fully government-owned corporate entity or entities to be registered under the provisions of the Companies Act, 2013.
On June, 16, the government decided to convert the Ordnance Factory Board into seven Defence Public Sector Undertakings.