A proposal mooted by the Defence Ministry to provide 10 per cent reservation to trade apprentices belonging to Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) in ordnance factories has been turned down by the Union Skill Development Ministry, sources said here. The employee federations of the state-run Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), parent organisation of the 41 arms manufacturing units across the country, have sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi's intervention in the matter.
On November 1, the OFB had issued a notification inviting applications from eligible candidates in the age group of 15 to 24 years for trade apprenticeships. Out of the 4,805 vacancies, a total of 3,210 are reserved for those belonging to Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) and 1,595 are for Class 10 pass-outs.
"The issue of reservation for candidates belonging to economically weaker sections was raised before the Union Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship. But the Ministry turned down the proposal on the grounds that apprenticeship training neither falls under the category of education nor jobs," said a senior official.
The 103rd Amendment Act, 2019 of the Constitution empowers the state to provide up to 10 per cent reservation for "economically weaker sections" in education and public employment. The Amendment Act had been passed by the Parliament in January this year during the first BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre.
The Defence Ministry had asked the Union Skill Development Ministry, to extend reservation meant for EWS candidates as provided under the 103rd Constitutional Amendment Act of 2019, to the Apprentices Act, 1961.
The Apprentices Act, 1961 governs and regulates training and matters pertaining to apprentices in government establishments.
Employees' federations of ordnance factories across the country have, following the rejection of the proposal by the skill development ministry, written to the Prime Minister's office demanding extension of the benefits of EWS reservation to apprentices as well.
"Those belonging to EWS category are being provided reservation in jobs and education. Though the Apprentice Act has provisions of reservation for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes, there is no provision yet for apprentices," Mukesh Singh, General Secretary, Bharatiya Pratiraksha Mazdoor Sangh, told IANS.
Article 3A of the Apprentice Act, 1961 provides for reservation of candidates belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, in proportion to their numbers in the respective state, in designated trades.
Further, Parliament had also passed the Apprentices (Amendment) Act in 2007 making provisions of reservations for OBCs in designated trades. Article 3B was inserted in the original Act of 1961 reserving a number of training places for OBCs in proportion to their population in the respective state.
"We have demanded Prime Minister Narendra Modi's intervention to extend the benefits of EWS reservation to apprentices as well," added Singh.
Trade apprentices engaged by ordnance factories every year are entitled to minimum wages, as stipulated by the government, progressively from 70 per cent in the first year to 80 per cent in the second year and 90 per cent in the third and final year.
Training of apprentices is conducted over a period of three years. Candidates who are enrolled in ITIs undergo one year of training following completion of two years of studies in course curriculum in their respective institutions. High-school pass-outs undergo three years of training.