Lok Sabha passes Essential Defence Services Bill; Opposition decries it

Defence Minister says unions on board; bill allows govt to ban strikes, lockouts, layoffs in essential defence services establishments

Lok Sabha passes Essential Defence Services Bill; Opposition decries it

Rajnath Singh. File photo

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 3

The Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed the Essential Defence Services Bill, 2021, which allows the government to prohibit strikes, lockouts and layoffs in essential defence services establishments.

The bill was passed amid din and strong opposition reservations.

RSP leader NK Premachandran and Congress’s Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said the Bill snatches the democratic rights of workers in ordnance factories to strike, guaranteed by the Industrial Disputes Act and the ILO conventions.

Chowdhury accused the government of throttling democracy, with Congress MP Manish Tewari terming it “draconian”.

TMC’s Saygata Roy said the opposition had strong objections to the “corporatisation of defence establishments through the bill”.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh allayed fears of opposition MPs saying the government had engaged the representatives of all unions across essential defence establishments, and everyone was on board.

“We have engaged the unions in a very cordial atmosphere. Everyone is on board,” Singh said, adding that the bill might not need to be invoked as it would be invoked under special circumstances only for a limited period.

Earlier, Minister of State for Defence Ajay Bhatt piloted the bill for passage.

The bill replaces an ordinance promulgated on June 30.

Under the bill, the essential defence services include any service in: (i) any establishment or undertaking dealing with production of goods or equipment required for defence-related purposes, or (ii) any establishment of the armed forces or connected with them or defence.

These also include services that, if ceased, would affect the safety of the establishment engaged in such services or its employees. In addition, the government may declare any service as an essential defence service if its cessation would affect the: (i) production of defence equipment or goods, (ii) operation or maintenance of industrial establishments or units engaged in such production, or (iii) repair or maintenance of products connected with defence.

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