Tribune News Service
New Delhi, October 8
Six senior Congress leaders who recently signed a letter to party chief Sonia Gandhi seeking organisational changes on Thursday asked the government to review its proposal to privatise ordnance factories.
In the first joint statement, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma, Vivek Tankha, Kapil Sibal, Manish Tewari and Shashi Tharoor, prominent members of the Congress ginger group, also said changes in the Defence Offset Policy and Transfer of technology were a matter of serious concern and must be reversed. This is the first time the Congress letter writers have issued any joint statement, independent of party platforms, on government policy.
These (technology transfer) provisions have been an integral part of the Defence acquisition policy, they said to the government, adding: “We demand that the Government review and reverse these defence sector decisions and policy changes in national interest.”
The statement describes proposed privatisation of the 41 Ordnance Factories, changes in the FDI Policy and dilution of the Defence Offsets Policy, including dispensing with the condition of Transfer of Technology in acquisition of weapons and equipment for the armed forces, as “deeply disturbing”, saying the decisions “compromise national security interests and will have long term implications for India’s defence preparedness and in becoming a self-reliant nation”.
“These decisions are also in conflict with the Government’s Make in India campaign,” they noted mentioning how 70,000 employees of all 41 Ordnance Factories across India are on a month-long strike in protest against “Corporatisation” of the Ordnance Factory Board.
The Congress leaders cited the “failed” example of Privatisation of Royal Ordnance Factories in Britain and said, “This comparison is relevant considering the fact that the Indian Ordnance Factories originate and are successors of the Royal Ordnance Factories.”
The signatories to the statement said the 1984 UK Government’s decision to make ROFs an independent commercial organisation triggered an intense debate in British Parliament.
“The Government justified that the decision just as the logic has been put forward by the Ministry of Defence and the Finance Ministry as regarding the corporatisation of OFB in India,” the Congress group said.
They said the OFB is accountable to the people through Parliament and also CAG.
The Government’s must explain in what way the OFB has failed in transparency and accountability in a democratic system with check and balances, they noted, adding that handing over these factories and assets to private sector is bereft of justification and against India’s national interest.