Lok Sabha, amid the uproar over Pegasus snooping matter, has passed bill against ordnance factory employees’strike in the Lok Sabha without even having a discussion with opposition. According to this bill the employees from ordinance factories cannot go on a strike. Essential Defence Services Bill, 2021 got through the Lok Sabha with a voice vote and without any discussion.
The state defence minister Ajay Bhatt brought the bill before the Lok Sabha for passage while the House assembled at 2pm. That time, even leaders of opposition created ruckus and shouted slogans demanding debate over the Pegasus matter.
Opposition have called this bill “draconian, that would deprive employees of their democratic rights to protest,” while Defence Minister Mr Rajnath Singh have to say that all employee unions have been taken into confidence then the bill was passed.
“I urge all MPs that this Bill has been brought keeping the interest of workers in mind. This Bill has been brought so that there are no hindrances to supplies for our defence forces. We have already had a discussion with all the unions in a very cordial atmosphere. It is possible that we not even need to invoke provisions of this Bill. In any case, it is only for one year,” Singh said.
Bhatt initiated the discussion on the Bill and said, “There is no law to ensure defence needs and supplies are met without hindrance. An ordinance was promulgated last year. This Bill is in the interest of national security. No worker or employee is going to be impacted.”
Bhatt confirmed that this Bill is brought now as workers notified of a strike. “If there was no notice for strike, it would not have been brought forth. No fundamental rights are going to be violated and all facilities for employees will remain. There is a sunset clause in the Bill. We have spoken to all employees. There is no crisis. I assure all members and urge them to pass the Bill,” said he.
Amid the ruckus, MP NK Premchandran of RSP, said: “This is a very important Bill. There are 41 ordnance factories in India. It is an indirect way of privatisation of OFBs. The sole purpose is to ban strikes. There are 84,000 employees and their legitimate right to protest is being taken away. I want to move amendment, but it is unfortunate that the passing of the Bill is not proper. It is not fair to pass bills amid the din.”
Repeated requests from Speaker Om Birla requested repeatedly to maintain a peaceful debate over the Bill but his pleas were ignored by all the Opposition members.
Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury of Congress said, “It is draconian and being brought to throttle the democratic rights of the workers. Government is not in the mood to discuss. Our demand is that you discuss Pegasus and we will discuss all issues. This Bill should not be passed when the House is not in order.”
TMC leader Saugata Roy found this Bill anti-labour. “Workers have given a strike notice opposing the corporatisation of ordnance factories,” he claimed.
The Bill was brought in on Thursday, while mentioning it is made to “provide for the maintenance of essential defence services so as to secure the security of the nation and the life and property of public at large and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto”. But the government in its objectives, has stated: “Indian Ordnance Factories is the oldest and largest industrial setup which functions under the Department of Defence Production of the Ministry of Defence. The ordnance factories form an integrated base for indigenous production of defence hardware and equipment, with the primary objective of self reliance in equipping the armed forces with state of the art battlefield equipment.”
Further, it was noticed that as it is “essential that an uninterrupted supply of ordnance items to the armed forces be maintained for the defence preparedness of the country and the ordnance factories continue to function without any disruptions, especially in view of the prevailing situation on the northern front of the country, it was felt necessary that the Government should have power to meet the emergency created by such attempts and ensure the maintenance of essential defence services in all establishments connected with defence, in public interest or interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India or security of any State or decency or morality”.
The Bill entitles the government to communicate services mentioned in the bill as significant defence services, “the cessation of work of which would prejudicially affect the production of defence equipment or goods; or the operation or maintenance of any industrial establishment or unit engaged in production of goods or equipment required for any purpose connected with defence; or repair or maintenance of products connected with defence”.
It also prohibits lockouts and strike in “any industrial establishment or unit engaged in essential defence services”.