Even as the Indian Army is set to unveil a new combat uniform, employees working with the erstwhile Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) – which was dissolved into seven corporations last year – have blamed the Central government for giving preference to the private over the public entities.
Employees working in various Ordinance Clothing Factories, located in different parts of the country alleged that the government has finalised the design offered by a private entity, while Army’s own companies are skilled and equipped enough to design and manufacture new uniform.
Designed by the NIFT – an autonomous body under the Ministry of Textile, the new combat uniform will be unveiled on Army Day, January 15.
A delegation of the employees has met Defence Minister, Rajnath Singh and urged him to intervene in the matter.
Speaking to NH, C Srikumar, General Secretary of AIDEF, expressed “disappointment and displeasure among the OFB employees” and said that the government has once again preferred the private sector over the public sector.
“This will have serious implications on National Security and Defence preparedness. Once the Ordnance Factories are liquidated these private sectors will start dictating terms to the Army. Government should protect the Ordnance Factories,” said Srikumar.
Saying that the Ordnance Factories cannot be treated as Air India, Srikumar asked, “How will the ordnance factories survive, if they are not given contracts?”.
“Ordnance Factories cannot be treated as commercial, and the objective should not be profit-making,” said Srikumar.
However, there are some who believe that both public and private companies will be roped in through a tender process to manufacture the new uniform.
CPI leader and Rajya Sabha MP Binoy Viswam has shot off a letter to Rajnath Singh, supporting the employees of the OFB and their argument.
“Despite the Ordinance factories possessing highly skilled and experienced manpower, NABL accredited labs, latest quality control systems and modern machinery, they continuously lose work to private entities that operate through Contract and Subcontract systems, utilising unskilled workers and exploiting them to ensure a lower price,” said Viswam in his letter.
Saying that the “unfair competition being created between a PSU and Private entities” Viswam added, “This decision will have a great impact on the OCF Avadi, OCF Shajahanpur and OEF Hazratpur who are struggling for workload post their corporatisation”.
Viswam urged Rajnath Singh to give “instructions to the Army to directly place indent of the new uniforms from the Ordinance Clothing Factories.”
Army clothing factories are located at Shajahanpur, Hazratpur, and Avadi are known for manufacturing, long-lasting high-quality uniform.
According to media reports, Army Chief General MM Naravane had approved the new design following the feedback from the formations.
The uniform, which will be unveiled on Army Day is the fourth since Independence. The new combat uniform has been designed by the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) in close collaboration with the Army.
“The Army itself has repeatedly appreciated the quality and ease of business with Ordinance factories,” pointed out Viswam in his letter to Rajnath Singh.
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