Employees of ordnance units upset at short term job offer similar to ‘Agnipath’ scheme

Munitions India Limited (MIL) is offering a contractual job scheme to apprentices for a period of one year which may be extended up to a maximum period of four years

Photo: social media
Photo: social media
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NH Political Bureau

Employees’ unions are up in arms against a move by Munitions India Limited (MIL) – one of the seven government-owned companies created by the Modi government following corporatisation of ordnance factories running under the erstwhile Ordnance Factory Board – to offer a contractual job scheme for up to four years to apprentices, reminiscent of the controversial ‘Agnipath’ scheme introduced recently for the armed forces.

A Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the recruitment, circulated on September 5 by MIL, which functions under the Department of Defence Production, Ministry of Defence, says, “Engagement of tenure-based personnel shall be on contract basis initially for a period of one year which may be extended up to a maximum period of four years from the date of engagement.”

As per the SOP, the appointments will be done as required by the various MIL units spread across India. Currently, there are 11 ammunition manufacturing units in the country that have been merged into MIL.

Employees who had protested against the corporatisation of ordnance factories believe that the creation of MIL, like the other six companies, was part of a larger plan by the Modi govt to privatise parts of the defence sector.

They are now threatening to go on a strike if the SOP circulated by MIL is not withdrawn.

Protesting against ‘exploitative and unfair practices’, an office bearer of AIDEF, the largest employees’ union in the defence sector, said apprentices should be given permanent appointments rather than tenure appointments.

Talking to National Herald, C Srikumar, general secretary of the union, said that employees are against such ‘unilateral moves’ aimed at the ‘casualisation of jobs’.

“Total casualisation of employment is the guiding principle of the Modi government. Exploit the youth at their young age and throw them out in the street – this is what they have done in the last eight years,” he said.

He has written a letter to the Defence Secretary urging him to withdraw the SOP as soon as possible.

“Modi government has diluted 29 Labour Laws and introduced the new Labour Code which is likely to result in huge job losses, particularly in the public sector,” he said.

As per the new Code, employees may have to work for 12 hours a day as the Labour Ministry made it clear that the requirement of a 48-hour weekly work is compulsory. Once introduced, their take-home salary may be lower than earlier as the PF contribution would go up even as employees may be forced to work for 12 hours a day.

A mid-level Army officer working at the Ordnance Depot, Allahabad echoed Srikumar’s views. He said, “Why will anybody join the Army if his/her future is not secured? My father got a lot of benefits after retiring from the Army such as a pension and an MIG flat on an easy loan…I will only get a pension, but if my son joins the Army on contract basis through a scheme like ‘Agnipath’, he will get nothing after four years at the end of his service. What kind of a job is this?” he said.

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