After farmers, defence personnel to protest Modi govt policies

All defence employee unions have come together to call a nation-wide strike on January 22-25 against the unbridled policies of the Modi govt which encourages privatisation in the defence sector

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Bhasha Singh

After farmers, now the Defence employees across the country are preparing to take to the streets against the Narendra Modi government. They have called for a nation-wide strike on January 23-25, 2019, in which four lakh defence employees are expected to participate.

They say that the way the Modi government decided to hand over the defence sector to private companies, the employees are facing problems in survival. Out of the 41 ordnance factories, 21 are in deep crisis. The Left, Congress and the BJP employee unions are also taking part in this strike. All of the workers unions say that the Modi government has sidelined India's current defence production capacity in the name of the Make in India scheme. Earlier too, the All India Defence Employees Federation had called for a nationwide strike, but withdrew after assurances from the government.

But despite the assurance, the government has not only cut orders for ordnance but also closed 14 EME workshops contrary to its promises. Due to this, three registered unions of defence-civil workers have called for the strike in January.

National Herald has been constantly covering the issues of ordnance factories not being given production orders and small and medium enterprises (MSME) dependent on the ordnance factories reaching the brink of closure. But now the situation is getting out of control as it involves government-army workers as well as employees of all the ordnance factories. The way the Federation of the three major parties are involved, it is clear that there is a deep resentment against the policies of the Central Government at the lower levels

SM Pathak who lives in Jabalpur and has 50 years of work experience in various ordnance factories and the defence industry says that instead of providing employment, the Modi government is taking away employment from the present employees. “The Jabalpur ordnance factory is in a bad shape. A cut in the work order has caused a huge outcry in the workers. Former Defence Minister AK Antony had agreed to our demands and removed the annual direct recruitment plan. As a result, it forged a way to the youth in large numbers in the defence industry. The training, internship-skill development was also going on.

“But as soon as the Modi government took over, it again implemented the annual direct recruitment plan. Now the new recruitment has been stopped completely and the work has also been outsourced. Due to the commission cuts provided by the private companies, they are being promoted as opposed to the ordnance factories which were built with the help of the public’s money. It is against this that this nation-wide strike has been called.”

Sadhu Singh, a leader of the BJP’s Indian Defense workers’ union which is the unit of Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), told National Herald, “the government is not listening to us then what should we do? We will have to listen to the workers, otherwise we will be criticised. Everyone says it is our government, but the government is not listening to us. Last time, we all withdrew our call for strike on the assurance from the government that there will be no cut in the defence civilian sector. But they shut down 14 EMEs. The order for the ordnance factories was also not rectified.

There is no choice left for us but to go on strike.”All India Defence Employees Federation, the largest union in this sector, was the first to raise voice in protest against this privatisation in the defence sector. Secretary General of the Federation, C Kumar said, “The Modi government’s Make in India in Defence is an absolute lie. Till now, whatever production we were doing is also being handed over to private bidders. I am seeing this for the first time that 21 ordnance factories don’t have work, because the government has outsourced the product they were making.

Secondly, we demand that the discriminatory pension scheme NPS which has been brought in for civil defence staff, should be stopped immediately, because it makes our future insecure. There is no guaranteed pension amount in this pension scheme. The Modi government is not only anti-farmer but is also against the defence sector.

“On this issue, Rajya Sabha MP Binoy Viswam wrote a letter on November 17, 2018, to Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking him to take steps to end this discrimination in the pension scheme. He said that the NPS pension scheme will deprive employees of the civil defence sector of security of the pension money.

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