As tension continues to go up along the Line of Control (LOC), an internal report of the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB)—which oversees the functioning of 41 ordnance factories that are the backbone of the army—shows that the production of arms, ammunition and equipment and their supply to army has missed the target by 39% and 45%, respectively, as of July 31, 2019.
The target for 2019-2020 for 41 ordnance factories was estimated as Rs 16,850 crore, and, by the end of July, 33% of this should have been completed.
However, as per the report, which has been submitted to Ajay Kumar, secretary-defence production (secretary-DP), on August 5, shows that the value of production up to July 31, 2019 was 20% which is 39% less than the target, while the value of issue (supply) to the army is only 15%, which is 55% less than the target.
According to the report, accessed exclusively by TOI, there is a shortfall in 24 different types of ammunition and explosives—A&E as OFB classifies it—and another 21 types of major principal items, including items like Dhanush guns, and T-90 battle tanks have not taken off the way they should have.
Sources in the OFB, and some employees TOI spoke with attributed the delay in production and supply mainly to the late placement of indent by the Army, due to which factories were unable to procure raw materials and components on time.
Strike to hit 30% Ammo supply ::
And, just when production tempo was picking up in all the factories, a major shock was delivered with the proposal to corporatise OFB—the TOI was first to report this on July 19—which prompted all the three federations of defence civilian employees call for a 30-day strike beginning August 20, which will bring production to a standstill, further affecting supplies to the army.
“It is estimated that ammunition production will be affected by more than 30%, while the strike will also impact overall production at ordnance factories. This is going to have serious impact on the supplies to the army, especially with the present tension in the border,” a member of the ordnance factory said.
On the kind of impact their strike would have, All India Defence Employees Federation general secretary C Srikumar, told TOI: “Our workforce is patriotic and knows its national responsibility, which has been proven during all the previous wars.
During Kargil, we worked without even going home and supplied all equipment and ammunition, which was appreciated by then army chief and the President. However, at present, the government, through its arbitrary decision to corporatise factories has put these workers in a demotivated and demoralised state.”
Employees argue that more than 40,000 of the 82,000 workers are within 40 years of age, with financial commitments. “It is the responsibility of the government to prevent such an industrial action by negotiating with the federations and withdraw its decision,” Srikumar further said.
Incidentally, as TOI reported on August 8, the MoD, as part of its proposal to corporatise ordnance factories has noted that delay in production as one of the reasons behind the move, along with cost and quality as raised by the armed forces, particularly the army.