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HomeDEFENCEThe men who worked backstage to help India win the Kargil War...

The men who worked backstage to help India win the Kargil War and save cost

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Salute to the workforce of Ordnance Factories who equipped the Indian Army for their great and strategic victory in the Kargil war under sub-zero weather conditions

Twenty one years ago on the 26th of July, 1999 the Indian Army repulsed the Pak invaders in Op Vijay which lasted 60 days. It is only because of the fearless determination of our brave soldiers that enemies were driven away from our soil. Our soldiers fought valiantly in hostile terrains and sacrifice their life to protect the Country in adverse conditions.

The Country remembers proudly its soldiers. But it is unfortunate nobody is talking about the men behind the scene who played an equally important role backstage for this great victory.

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Let’s not forget that the Indian Army gave a befitting reply to the enemies by wearing the Extreme climate protective clothing, Battlefield Dress, and using Arms, Ammunitions, Weapons, Tanks, Guns, Optical Instruments, Tents, Boots, Parachutes and Vehicles manufactured by the Indian Ordnance Factories. How can the nation forget the civilian Workers who worked day and night in the Ordnance Factories to equip our soldiers?

Kargil OP Arty

Let us turn back the pages of history.

After the successful Kargil War, the then Chief of the Army Staff General V.P.Malik said “probably India did not win all these wars without punch technology and supply from OFB while the nation failed to get them from overseas.” After the Kargil victory, in the joint session of the Parliament the then President and the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces Late K.R.Narayanan stated how the Ordnance Factories doubled their production to fully meet the requirement of the Armed Forces to fight the war against the Pakistan.

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Let us also go through the deliberations of Parliament Standing Committee of the 14th Lok Sabha (2005 – 2006) regarding merits and demerits of OFB if it will become a PSU. The Ministry of Defence itself has submitted before the Parliament Standing Committee at under: “Ordnance Factories function as a Government Department and are accordingly governed by the applicable rules and regulations. As an established National Policy Ordnance Factories are also required to maintain idle capacities to take care of surge demand in an emergent war situation. In a purely commercial term, maintaining idle capacity would be detrimental to the business interest of the company (PSU) and would appear to be a reason for low performance in terms of turnover and profits. In turn, it would also place such DPSUs in a disadvantageous position in a competitive environment.”

Let us also go through another report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee (Fourth Report for the year 2019-2020) presented in the Loksabha on Dec 20, 2019, wherein it is stated that “Ordnance Factories are an Integrated base for Indigenous production of Defence Equipment and Ammunitions and form the backbone of the Country’s Defence Production”, It further says that “Ordnance Factories have been continuously upgrading their infrastructure with the induction of State of Art Technologies to meet futuristic requirements of users”. It also elaborates “Ordnance Factory Board gradually moved up the ladder in R&D and undertook projects for developments of Weapon platforms”.

Ignoring all the above facts, the Finance Minister on May 16, 2020 while announcing the so-called “Atma Nirbhar Bharat Package” told that Government has decided to corporatize the Ordnance Factories and creating an impression in the public mind that the Ordnance Factory Board is not at present “Accountable” do not have any “Autonomy” and is not “Efficient”. Added to the injury the Prime Minister in his address in the 13th episode of “Mann Ki Baat 2.0” on June 28, 2020 stated the following. “Friends, before independence in the realm of the Defence Sector, our Country was ahead of many countries in the World. There used to be multiple of Ordnance Factories. Many Countries that lagged behind us then, are ahead of us now. After independence, we should have made efforts in the Defence Sectors, taking advantage of our prior experience we did not”.

The above speech of the Prime Minister also gives the impression that after independence Ordnance Factories have not contributed anything towards the Defence of our Country.

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There are many so-called defense analysts and retired Army Officers on the payroll of Private Industries and influencing the media, who throw mud on the Ordnance Factories.

Let us also see what the Ordnance Factories have done when the Country was started attacking by the COVID-19 pandemic. The whole Country including industries went on Lockdown. The Country realized that there is an acute shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) required for the Doctors, Nurses, and Health Care Workers who are in the frontline fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic. The Defence Ministry gave a call to the Ordnance Factories to explore the possibility of manufacturing the Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) for the Doctors, Nurses and Health Care Workers who fight the pandemic from the front line.

Despite the COVID-19 Lockdown the workers of the Ordnance Factories, to save the people of the Country from the COVID-19 pandemic, risked their life like brave soldiers worked in the Factory day and night and produced lakhs and lakhs of PPEs required for the Country. Many of the Ordnance Factory Employees have succumbed to death because of the COVID-19 infection. When the Defence Production was disturbed because of the Lockdown and diversification for PPEs Manufacturing, the Army was worried and the Army approached the Government that if the situation continues then there will be a serious threat for the Defence Preparedness of our Country. Despite continuing Lockdown in many States, many of the Ordnance Factories being located in containment zones, suspension of Public Transport, and Suburban Trains in many States, but the Ordnance Factory Workers are forced to attend duty and they are now involved in Defence Production once again risking their life. The Government has so far not extended the COVID-19 Insurance coverage to these Employees. Even they are not been allowed Medical Treatment in the Military Hospitals.PPE

The Ordnance Factory Workers also deserves recognition from the Country and the Government for their selfless, devoted service. But unfortunately, the Government only wanted to punish them, to victimize them for all their devotion toward duty by corporatizing the Ordnance Factories, and then to privatize them. So far the Workers have got support from some Political Parties and Members of Parliament in their fight and Privatization and Corporatization. They have approached the Prime Minister to reconsider the Government’s decision in the interest of National security and Defence Preparedness of our Country. The Workers of the Ordnance Factories needs the support of all patriotic citizens of our Country, in their battle to stall the corporatization and Privatization of Ordnance Factories. I am confident that the movement is started by the Workers and their Trade Unions to save the 219 years old Indian Ordnance Factories will be converted into a national movement in the coming days

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C Srikumar
C Srikumar
C. Srikumar is a senior Trade Union Leader. He was recently elected Deputy General Secretary of the World Federation of Trade Unions which represents the working class of more than 133 countries. He is also the General Secretary of the All India Defence Employees Federation which represents more than 4 lakh Defence Civilian Employees and the National Secretary of the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC). The views expressed are his own


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