Daily News Analysis

ESSENTIAL DEFENCE SERVICE ORDINANCE, 2021

3rd July, 2021 Polity

Context:

The Communist Party of India (CPI) has condemned the Essential Defence Services Ordinance, 2021, promulgated by the Union government that bans all strikes in Indian ordnance factories

Background

  • The ordinance to provide for the maintenance of essential defence services so as to secure the security of the nation and the life and property of public at large and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
  • As parliament is not in session and the President is Satisfied that circumstances exist which render it necessary for him to take immediate action ,in exercise of the powers conferred by clause (1) of article 123 of the Constitution, the president is pleased to promulgate the ordinance.
  • The Ordinance allows the central government to prohibit strikes, lock-outs, and lay-offs in units engaged in essential defence services.

Key features

  • Prohibition on strikes, lock-outs, and lay-offs: Under the Ordinance, the central government may prohibit strikes, lock-outs, and lay-offs in units engaged in essential defence services. The government may issue such an order if necessary in the interest of: (i) sovereignty and integrity of India, (ii) security of any state, (iii) public order, (iv) public, (v) decency, or (vi) morality.
  • The prohibition order will remain in force for six months, and may be extended by six months.
  • Punishment for illegal lock-outs and lay-offs: Employers violating the prohibition order through illegal lock-outs or lay-offs will be punished with up to one year imprisonment or Rs 10,000 fine, or both.
  • Punishment for illegal strikes: Persons commencing or participating in illegal strikes will be punished with up to one year imprisonment or Rs 10,000 fine, or both.
  • All offences punishable under the Ordinance will be cognisable and non-bailable.
  • Public utility service: The Ordinance amends the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 to include essential defence services under public utility services.
  • Under the Act, in case of public utility services, a six-week notice must be given before: (i) persons employed in such services go on strike in breach of contract or (ii) employers carrying on such services do lock-outs.

Criticism:

  • It is to curb the united struggle of the Defence Production Employees and Workers against the move for privatisation of Ordnance Factories network through corporatisation.
  • Government decision was in “total violation of the assurance given to the united platform of Defence Employees Federations” by the Centre.
  • The ordinance by the Centre is an attempt to intimidate the agitating defence employees.

Way Forward:

  • The Centre must give an equal chance to voice the concerns of Defence Production Employees against its policy decisions.
  • The defence employees have no interest in disrupting defence production. National defence production capability be kept free of any obstacles from profit-mongering corporates for the sake of national security.