Used to a lenient and patronising attitude on their work achievements by the governments of the day, state-owned ordnance factories (OFs) — employing nearly a lakh workers in its 41 factories across the country — have been asked by none other than the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to furnish a report on their achievement from 2013 onwards.
Confirming the development, a top source in the defence ministry told this newspaper: “The PMO has written the letter to the secretary, defence production, who controls the OFs. The February 16 letter seeks of OFs to give a report on all the items and products they have produced in the last three financial years along with details of the costs involved, besides photographic evidence.”
The source added that the reports have to be furnished by Tuesday (February 28) and the order includes not just the factories producing ammunition and weapons but also those producing and supplying clothing and other equipment to the troops.
Performance of OFBs has been anything but satisfactory. In 2013, OFBs could meet the targets on only 39 per cent of the items required by the Armed Forces. The PMO’s order is significant in view of soldiers from the armed forces and paramilitary taking to social media in recent days to vent their angst on the quality and quantity of items they are being given by the OFs. Of late, defence minister Manohar Parrikar, too, has been critical of the work culture and target achievement of OFs.
Tracing its origin to British India in 1787, OFs are the oldest and largest organisation in India’s defence industry. The 41 factories are divided into five verticals — ammunition and explosives; weapons, vehicles and equipment; materials and components; armoured vehicles; and ordnance equipment. The 41 OFs are under the administrative control of the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), which is under the MoD’s department of defence production.
While the Army is the main client of OFs accounting for 80 per cent of the production, the Air Force and Navy together account for less than 4 per cent of the factory issues with paramilitary forces and the state police forces accounting largely for the rest.
The primary objectives of OFs are to supply quality arms, ammunition, tanks and equipment expeditiously to armed forces, to modernise production facilities and to achieve substantive self–reliance, to absorb latest technology and conduct in-house research and development besides enhancing the potential of small and medium enterprises in the country’s stated objective of indigenisation. There is a widespread belief that OFs have been falling far short of achieving their targets.