THE dissolution of the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) should certainly be described as a real big step the Government took -- with far-reaching, positive ramifications for the country’s defence production sector, which is expected to get a big dose of a much-needed verve in the line of thinking as per the concept of Atmanirbhar Bharat. Now all the ordnance factories will come under full control of seven Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs) and will spruce up ordnance production in the country like never before. Though it is a belated move, it is welcome. For too long a time, India’s defence forces and services were feeling the pinch of the slack work-culture that the OFBs represented. Not only had those enterprises become unwieldy but also too expensive for the national exchequer -- because of their ever-burgeoning overheads that had little justification in many cases. An expert, therefore, once described the defence production sector as luxuriating in a nauseating comfort zone.
No amount of motivational efforts bore fruit and the manpower across the board in most ordnance factories did not spruce up its work culture. All these factors did have a bearing on the prices of the final products the ordnance factories dished out for the use by the defence services -- thus overloading the defence budget with avoidable spending. In sharp contrast, defence production in private sector was showing a continuous improvement for decades on end. Nearly quarter of a century ago, it adopted what was described as Quality Culture and spoke a language of precision and achievement. Not only did it register improvement in quality, but also offered appreciable quantities of ordnance material at competitive pricing. This approach can now be expected from the ordnance factories under a new management umbrella. All the enterprises will certainly be owned fully by the Government through the seven already existing organisations. However, this step towards corporatisation is not just a cosmetic move. Much to the contrary, the Government has tried to introduce systemic and systematic changes in the entire working of the ordnance factories. The aim is to make those units fully ready to meet India’s growing demand in the defence-related production. The aim also is to ensure that India starts its journey towards greater self-reliance with better confidence in self and finer approach to the quality. Defence-related production is rarely just the guns and bullets and mortars and rockets and bridges and signals equipment. It encompasses a very wide range of items that is far beyond the common imagination. And each of these items are needed in mind-boggling numbers -- in multiple lakhs and crores on a continuing basis, in the same quality frame, with the same sense of urgency.
On most of these fronts, the ordnance factories under the OFB were falling short of nation’s needs and expectations. And that necessitated the overhaul -- which the Government took a long time to bring into effect. Almost all unions of Ordnance Factory employees -- countable in several lakhs on them -- were agitating against corporatisation, possibly fearing en masse retrenchment. The Government, of course, understood their anxieties and kept its word that it would shun such steps. Now all the ordnance factory employees have been handed over to the seven companies where they will have to engage in a different and more dynamic work culture. If the employees accept this change-over positively, they will be able to make a big contribution towards the fulfillment of the concept of Atmanirbhar Bharat. In the past some years, the Government has taken many dynamic steps towards ramping up of performance of the ordnance sector. The corporatisation move is one of those. It is not difficult to understand the criticality of such a big step that India kept waiting for. This change is naturally being looked at as one big leap forward in tune with the changing demands of the defence sector. In the next few decades, India is going to emerge as a much larger contributor of defence merchandise to the world, not for the sake of commerce but for the sake of ever-changing security perceptions. This is one big step in that direction.