More than one lakh workers in the 41 ordnance factories across the country started a month-long strike on Tuesday, demanding the Centre drop the move to corporatise the ordnance factory board. The government will hold parleys with the striking trade unions and officers’ associations on Wednesday.

The three major trade unions — the Bharatiya Pratiraksha Mazdoor Sangh, the Indian National Defence Workers Federation, and the All India Defence Employees Federation — claimed in a joint statement that the strike was total and there was no production on the first day.


“The strike has commenced at 6 am and the entire workforce are staying away from work, resulting in scaling down of the defence production to zero level. Strike was a total success in Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Odisha, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh (Jabalpur, Katni), Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar and Chandigarh, where the ordnance factories are located. The strike was a total success at ordnance factory board headquarters, Kolkata,” the statement said.

Arbitary move

They added that the Centre had arbitrarily decided to convert ordnance factories from a government department to a corporation or a PSU. “In the past two decades, so many committees have recommended converting the ordnance factories into a PSU. However, the ordnance factories, being war-reserve and solely dependent on the armed forces, cannot function as a commercially viable PSU. Therefore, the previous defence ministers, George Fernandes, Pranab Mukherjee, AK Antony and Manohar Parikkar have rejected those recommendations and have assured the Federations that the ordnance factories would not be corporatised,” the union leaders claimed. They alleged that the Centre, without any justification, has brought corporatisation as an agenda in its 100 days programme.

“The three recognised Federations, the CDRA and other unrecognised Federations and Trade Unions, have decided to protest against the arbitrary decision of the government. Once the ordnance factories are converted into a corporation/PSU, then in due course it will lead to privatisation by disinvestment, etc,” they said.

Strike hailed

Various central trade unions congratulated the workers of Ordnance factories for protesting the alleged privatisation move.

“It is ironic that the BJP and (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi who campaigned on the plank of ‘nationalism’ have no qualms in placing our national security at the mercy of the profit greedy corporates including foreign companies by privatising the defence sector including allowing 100 per cent FDI,” CITU President Hemalatha said in a statement.

“The ordnance factories, treated as the fourth force of defence in India, have played a crucial role in ensuring timely and quality supplies to our forces, including during the Kargil war and the surgical strikes undertaken by the Indian army on various occasions. Through their hard work and dedication, it is these workers and employees who have proved their commitment to the nation while the BJP government is trying to mortgage national security,” Hemalatha added.

The AITUC termed the Centre’s move as “anti-national.” “The government wants these 41 Indian ordnance factories to produce ₹30,000 crore worth of goods by 2024. The unions have accepted the challenge, but want the government to assure them that the plans to corporatise the ordnance factories will be shelved,” AITUC said in a statement.