Four lakh civilian defense employees working in more than 430 defense units all over the country boycotted food including tea the whole day while on duty on Thursday, 11th January, to attract the attention of the government to their demand to stop privatization and closure of defense establishments.
The protest action is part of the agitation program jointly decided upon by the three recognized federations of defense employees - the All India Defense Employees’ Federation (AIDEF), Indian National Defense Workers’ Federation (INDWF), and the Bharatiya Pratiraksha Mazdoor Sangh (BPMS) and 39 other unions. AIDEF, INDWF and BPMS have so far submitted four joint representations to the Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. However, the government has refused to consider these representations or to invite the recognized federations for a negotiated settlement. The Federations have also given notice to the government for observing a massive demonstration in Delhi before the Parliament on 15th February and for a call-attention strike on 15th March.
These unions have been raising concerns about a number of recent defense-related policy decisions by the NDA government regarding national security as well as job cuts as a result ofwhich31,000 employees have been declared “surplus”. They have opposed moves to privatize defense production, and to outsource more than 250 items manufactured by the 41 Ordnance Factories to the private sector by declaring those items as "non-core". The unions are also protesting the decisions to close station workshops, to hand over Army base workshops to private contractors, to close Depots and 39 Military Farms, and to reduce the manpower in Military Engineer Services (MES).The dilution of the role of the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and the Directorate General Quality Assurance (DGQA) are also being opposed by the federations.
Privatization of defense sector has been one of the top priority agenda items of the government. The Indian state spends tens of thousands of crores of rupees every year in purchasing capital equipment for the armed forces, from big international monopolies in the armaments business based in US, Russia, France, Israel, Britain, etc. In recent years, big Indian monopoly capitalist houses like Tatas, Birlas, Larsen & Toubro, Mahindras, Kalyanis, Ambanis, Adanis, etc. have been putting pressure on the Central government to make policy changes regarding defense procurement to facilitate their entry into this lucrative sector. The rapid militarization of the Indian state and the opening up of the defence sector for the private Indian monopoly capitalists, in pursuit of their imperialist ambitions, poses a grave threat to peace in the Indian sub-continent.