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Bill to prohibit strikes by essential defence services staff introduced

New Delhi: In a bid to prohibit any agitation and strike by anyone engaged in the essential defence services, the government on Thursday introduced the Essential Defence Services Bill, 2021.

The bill was introduced by Minister of State for Defence Ajay Bhatt amid the ruckus created by the Opposition over three new agriculture laws and the alleged Pegasus snooping controversy.

The proposed Bill empowers the government to prohibit strike in essential defence services and provides for disciplinary action, including dismissal, against employees participating in strike. It also provides for penalties for "illegal strikes, instigation thereof and providing for financial aid to such illegal strikes." As per the Statements of Objects and Reasons of the Bill, Indian Ordnance Factories is the oldest and largest industrial set up 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 the state-of-the-art battlefield equipment.

In order to improve autonomy, accountability and efficiency in ordnance supplies, the government decided to convert the

Ordnance Factory Board into one or more one hundred per cent government-owned corporate entity or entities to be registered under the provisions of the Companies Act, 2013, it stated.

"Against the decision, the recognised federations of the employees gave a notice for an indefinite strike. The conciliation proceedings initiated by the government at the level of Chief Labour Commissioner failed in the meeting held on June 15 and on June, 16, the government decided to convert the Ordnance Factory Board into seven Defence Public Sector Undertakings," it read. "Despite the government's assurance to take care of Ordnance Factory Board employees, the recognised federations of the employees have reiterated their intention to go on an indefinite strike from July 26," it read.

Since, ordnance factories need to function without any disruptions, it was felt necessary that the government should have the power to meet the emergency created by such attempts and ensure the maintenance of essential defence services in all establishments connected with defence, in the public interest, it read.

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