House passes Essential Defence Services Bill

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on August 05, 2021

Bill empowers Centre to prohibit strikes and layoffs in units engaged in essential services

Rejecting the Opposition’s stand that the Essential Defence Services Bill is aimed at curtailing the freedom to form trade unions and to strike work, the Parliament passed the Bill on Thursday.

Amid disruptions over Pegasus spyware issue, the Rajya Sabha too passed the Bill. The Lok Sabha had cleared it earlier. The Opposition alleged that the Bill is in the wake of an indefinite strike call by the workers of Ordnance Factories Boards over the decision to corporatise the OFB by splitting it into seven corporations.

The Bill empowers the Centre to prohibit strikes, lockouts, and layoffs in units engaged in essential defence services. The Upper House also defeated statutory motions by Opposition MPs Shaktisinh Gohil, Elamaram Kareem and V Sivadasan against the Essential Defence Services Ordinance. The Bill replaces the Ordinance promulgated in June.

Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge said the Bill is against the rights of workers and urged the House to send it to a select committee or a standing committee. The motion to send the Bill to a select committee was also rejected by the House.

“This Bill is a plot to denationalise the maintenance and manufacturing of defence. I request you to send this to a standing committee or select committee, where there would be a detailed discussion and the shortcoming in this would be brought out,” Kharge said.

Trade union leader and DMK MP M Shanmugam asked what was the need for the corporatisation of the OFB and said the factories are successful and efficient. “The Centre is indulging in an illegal act by bringing this Bill,” he said.

Centre defends the Bill

Replying to a brief debate on the Bill, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said the Centre’s intention is to increase the efficiency, competitiveness and autonomy of Ordnance Factories and corporatisation is part of the reform process of the OFB.

“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 hoped that the law may not have to be invoked. He said the Bill will not block right to protest. “I want to clarify that this bill does not obstruct the right to peaceful protest,” he said.

Published on August 05, 2021

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