India's ordnance factories, manufacturing ammunition and explosives for the country's defence forces — since the start of a gunpowder factory in Ichhapur by the Dutch Ostend Company in 1772 — has become history. The 41 production units of Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) have been converted into seven Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs), with effect from October 1, 2021, Union Minister of State for Defence and Tourism Ajay Bhatt informed the Rajya Sabha in a written reply on Monday.

Opposing the corporatisation move, about 80,000 employees working in the 41 ordnance factories are planning a two-day nation-wide protest from December 8-10. The All-India Defence Employees Federation (AIDEF) has also approached the Delhi and Madras High Courts against the move.

Elaborating the re-organisation, the minister informed the Rajya Sabha that ammunition and high explosives factories at Khadki in Pune; cordite factory at Aruvankadu; High Energy Projectile factory in Tiruchirappalli, and ordnance factories at Bhandara, Bolangir, Chandrapur, Dehu Road (Pune), Itarsi, Khamaria, Nalanda and Varangaon have been transferred to a new corporate DPSU , Munitions India Limited, with the base from Khadki in Pune.

The heavy vehicle and engine factories at Avadi in Tamil Nadu; machine tool prototype factory at Ambernath in Pune; ordnance factory at Medak, and vehicle factory in Jabalpur have been transferred to a new DPSU — Armoured Vehicles Nigam Limited — based from Avadi in Chennai.

The field gun and ordnance factories in Kanpur; gun carriage factory in Jabalpur; gun and shell factory in Cossipore; ordnance factory project at Korwa; Tiruchirappalli ordnance factory; Rifle factory in Ishapore, and the small arms factory in Kanpur have been brought under a third DPSU — Advanced Weapons and Equipment India Limited — with the base from Kanpur.

Troop comfort item manufacturing companies like clothing factories at Avadi and Shahjahanpur, and equipment factories at Kanpur and Hazratpur have been brought under a Kanpur-based corporate entity — Troop Comforts Limited. The military-grade components and ancillary manufacturing ordnance factories at Ambernath, Ambajhari, Bhusawal, Dumdum, Katni and Muradnagar; grey iron foundry in Jabalpur, and the metal and steel factory at Ishapore will come under a DPSU — Yantra India Limited, based out of Nagpur.

Similarly, defence optoelectronic items manufacturing units in Dehradun and the cable factory in Chandigarh have been grouped under India Optel Limited. The parachute manufacturing ordnance factory at Kanpur has also been renamed Gliders India Limited. Around 10 training institutes attached with the ordnance factories across India have also been merged with these DPSUs.

The minister said the new DPSUs would have more functional and financial autonomy, as well as more accountability to absorb technologies. All the employees of OFB belonging to the production units, and also the identified non-production units have been transferred en masse to the new DPSUs on terms of foreign service — without any deputation allowance (deemed deputation) initially for two years. The pension liabilities of the retirees and existing employees will continue to be borne by the government.

A 20-point demand by the employees, opposing the move, include ensuring regular payment of GPF withdrawals; maintaining 44.75 hours per week schedule; settling all the pending inter factory/inter directorate transfer cases; retaining existing contract workers, etc.

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