Four lakh defence civilian employees of Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO), across India, are on three days strike against the privatisation and closure of the defence industry. They are also protesting against the new pension scheme that has replaced the old pension scheme. All workshops, naval dockyards, ordnance factories, station workshops, army depots, etc. are on a complete shutdown. All India Defence Employees’ Federation (AIDEF) along with Indian National Defence Workers’ Federation (INDWF) and Bharatiya Pratiraksha Mazdoor Sangh (BPMS) are the major trade union of defence employees that has called for the shutdown. Apart from the four lakh employees, the trade unions represent 41 ordnance factories, 52 DRDO laboratories, and 53 quality assurance establishments.
The Protest against the National Pension Scheme
The Old Pension Scheme of getting the guaranteed pension as per the CCS pension Rule of 1972, covered the security of the entire family in case any mishaps happen with the employee. The new pension scheme, i.e., National Pension Scheme was launched in 2004. The employees claim that this pension scheme does not provide them with job security. R.N. Nagaraj, General Secretary of LRDE employee union, while talking to The Logical Indian said, “The new pension scheme does not even include the safety of an employee’s family if he dies in the middle of his working tenure. Thus, the national pension scheme does not have the financial security of employees. Even after retirement, they get the little amount as pension.”
Protest against the privatisation of DRDO workshops
A press release of CQAL & R Civilian Employees Union says that 275 products that were manufactured in 41 ordnance factories are declared as non-core and given to the private sector. Many new technologies developed in DRDO workshops are transferred to private industries.
Milk farms that provided milk to the soldiers and army camp is one example of privatisation. All these are being done under the Government Owned Contractor Operated (GOCO) model. Thus, many employees working in DRDO as civilian defence employees are now hired on a contractual basis. A press release by Centre Of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) states that the entire defence procurement policy of the Indian government is oriented towards destroying indigenous manufacturing capacity. “This is nothing but a grave conspiracy against the national security to make it perpetually dependent on the foreign multinational companies and simultaneously paving the way for destruction of indigenous manufacturing capability.” it read.
In discussion with The Logical Indian, N.S. Jonarthan Joshua, General Secretary of GTRE Employees Union, said, “The privatisation has led to fewer projects and thus surplus staffs. Therefore, many employees are now just being managed by transferring from one workshop to another.”
K. Ravindran Pillai, President of CQAL &R Civilian Employees Union, Bangalore, told that even Quality Assurance Team that checked the quality of all core and non-core items supplied to the army would soon go to a third party. He further said, “all the actions taken by the government are posing a severe threat to national security as the contractors will only care about the money and not the quality of material supplied to the army.”
The move by the government to hand over DRDO’s workshops and ordinances over to the private sector is a massive blow to the employees working there. If seen in the backdrop of 10% quota announced for Economic Backward Classes; the government is reducing the number of jobs in public sectors.