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समर्थक

रविवार, 2 मार्च 2014

सरकारी अकर्मण्यता का खामियाज़ा भुगत रही हैं हमारी प्रति -रक्षासेवायें। 'कहीं दाग न लग जाए 'इस खौफ से प्रतिरक्षामन्त्री उन तमाम फौरी मामलों को जो हमारी प्रतिरक्षाव्यवस्था से ताल्लुक रखते हैं , मुल्तवी करते आ रहें हैं।नानगवर्नेंस में मनमोहन अकेले नहीं हैं पूरा कुनबा उनके साथ है। एंटनी इसके अपवाद नहीं हैं। परम आश्चर्य की बात तो यह है सम्पूर्ण अकर्मण्यता के षड्यंत्र में पूरा यूपीए नेतृत्व शामिल है। बिना काम किये भी लांग खुल जाए ये बहुत खतरे की बात है। बिना काम की लुंगी


  1. A submarine at Naval Dockyard; Above: INS Vindhyagiri, which caught fire in Jan 2011

  2. सरकारी अकर्मण्यता का खामियाज़ा भुगत रही हैं हमारी प्रति -रक्षासेवायें। 'कहीं दाग न लग जाए 'इस खौफ से प्रतिरक्षामन्त्री उन तमाम फौरी मामलों को जो हमारी प्रतिरक्षाव्यवस्था से ताल्लुक रखते हैं , मुल्तवी करते आ रहें हैं।नानगवर्नेंस में मनमोहन अकेले नहीं हैं पूरा कुनबा उनके साथ है। एंटनी इसके अपवाद नहीं हैं। 

    परम आश्चर्य की बात तो यह है सम्पूर्ण अकर्मण्यता के षड्यंत्र में पूरा  यूपीए नेतृत्व शामिल है। बिना काम किये भी लांग खुल जाए ये बहुत खतरे की बात है। 

    बिना काम की लुंगी  


  3. Spate of mishaps and the naval chief's unprecedented resignation have put the focus on everything that ails the Navy.

Last week's fire on board the submarine INS Sindhuratna, which killed two officers, was the 13th mishap involving a naval vessel, three of which were submarines. A few months before that, India witnessed one of the worst peacetime disasters in Indian history, when INS Sindhurakshak sank at the Mumbai naval dockyard after torpedoes that were being loaded accidentally went off. 

While these incidents clearly show the alarmingly poor quality of our defence equipment, it is only a small part of what ails the Indian Navy. Serving and retired officials who this newspaper spoke to listed a number of reasons for the navy becoming a ragged patch of what it was in, say, 1971, its finest hour when it handed a resounding defeat to Pakistan. 

The factors that officers and experts listed are: an ageing fleet, inordinate delay in new procurements, an acute shortage of commissioned officers, sagging morale and, above all, an insipid civilian leadership. Then there are problems specific to the Western Naval Command.

We've come to Pak's level 

♦ Ageing fleet ♦ Delay in procurements ♦ Shortage of officers ♦ Sagging morale ♦ Insipid civilian leadership

It is alleged that its chief Vice-Admiral SK Sinha has a chequered service career and the conditions at Mumbai harbour are said to be among the worst in the world. 

India's Kilo-class subs were inducted over 30 years ago. The life expectancy of these vessels is around 15 to 18 years, including 10 years after retrofitting. Using them beyond their shelf-life has resulted in parts constantly needing repairs. Even in procuring spares, the government has not acted with urgency. Within defence circles, it is widelyacknowledged that submarines are in urgent need of replacement batteries. India's Kilo-class subs are diesel-electric models and the battery is their heart. 

Experts said timely replacement of fresh batteries - even indigenously sourced ones - will make them reasonably seaworthy. 

Ageing fleet 

"Each battery weighs 800 kg and every submarine has 220 of them," said an analyst. "Their operational life is four years. The current set of batteries should have been phased out a year ago. If not local ones, they should have been replaced with imported ones, which work out cheaper. Why are we stretching everything beyond its life? The loss of the two officers (in the Sindhuratna fire) could have been avoided." 

Such avoidable mistakes have resulted in India's Kilo-class fleet getting depleted. India's fleet strength is now down to the level of, say, Pakistan. India, in all, has 17 submarines. To put things in perspective, China has 70. "We had a total of 12 to 13 (Kilo-class) submarines," said PK Ghosh, senior fellow, Observer Research Foundation. "With these accidents, we have come down to Pakistan's level, which is about five to six subs. And with the Scorpene deal going nowhere, we are ill-equipped operationally." 

It is not just the subs where the navy's problem lies. Its reconnaissance aircraft have been around for 30 years. All of its anti-submarine aircraft were set to be decommissioned years ago. But with no replacement in sight, the navy has been forced to flog whatever is left of them. 

Aircraft carrier INS Viraat was to be decommissioned in 2008, but is still in service. INS Vikrant, which was our flagship in the 1971 war with Pakistan, has not been replaced. INS Vikramaditya, a three-decade-old refitted Russian carrier, will cost India more than a new carrier would. 

The only silver lining is the indigenously built INS Vikrant, but that will not be ready for induction till 2018. 

One thing officers and experts are unanimous about is that by putting in his papers, the Navy Chief Admiral DK Joshi has put the focus on the real issue that matters: the civilian leadership's almost criminal apathy. 

Sources said it is not that the defence ministry does not have the budget to fix these problems — the Navy gets 18 per cent of the defence budget, yet, the ministry has dithered on allocating these funds. Then there is the shortage of officers. The armed forces are short of around 13,000 officers, of which 1,400 are in the Navy. There has been no urgency in filling these posts. Analysts hold the bureaucracy responsible for postponing key decision-making. They also point to the fact that this period of inactivity has coincided with the tenure of the country's longest serving defence minister AK Antony (2006-2014). 

Experts said the bureaucracy and Antony are both worried only about remaining without taint, and put off taking any decisions. As a result, the Navy has been forced to get by with quick fixes, even at the risk of putting the lives of its highlytrained officers in danger. 

Sources said that in the recent months, the navy put in two urgent requests — immediate dredging of the Mumbai harbour, and procuring a new set of batteries. Neither was sanctioned. As a result, a submarine ran aground last month at the harbour. While there were no casualties in that incident, the Sindhuratna fire claimed two officers. 


Unquiet on the western front 

It is no surprise that the Western Naval Command has witnessed a majority of recent mishaps. The main reason is that it is headquartered in Mumbai, which is also the country's commercial shipping capital. The biggest problems in Mumbai are congestion and shallow waters. 

"Mumbai is a very congested harbour and many accidents have happened within the harbour," said retired Admiral Arun Prakash. A serving commander said the explosions on board INS Sindhurakshak last year caused a fire in a submarine berthed next to it. Other sources confirmed to this newspaper that that submarine was Sindhuratna. Though a full-fledged base is ready in Karwar down the coast, officers are reluctant to move base, chiefly because Karwar lacks amenities they have come to take for granted in Mumbai. The navy is even looking at acquiring land in Elephanta to berth smaller vessels. 

"Shifting to Karwar has been delayed over the years," said Admiral Prakash. "There is a dearth of maintenance facilities in Karwar. These accidents will accelerate the process of shifting base to Karwar, whether officers like it or not." 

Face off 

Top navy sources said these factors are leading to a standoff between the navy and the ministry and believe something has to give as a result. 

Admiral Joshi's resignation has not only given the navy the moral high ground, but it has also united officers against the civilian leadership. Sources said Joshi had, some months ago, initiated a proper correspondence with the government on the quality of submarines and procurement of spares. 

"The government delayed the process and when disaster struck it shifted the blame to the navy," said a top officer. "Admiral Joshi is a loyal soldier and was not scared to quit. But it is time for the people in the ministry to be held accountable." 

Senior BJP leader and defence minister in the NDA government Jaswant Singh — himself an ex-serviceman — said the blame entirely rested at the defence minister's doorstep. Experts said the hurried manner with which Joshi's resignation was accepted smacked of political motives. 

"I directly blame the PM and the defence minister for the current scenario, which is directly impacting morale of the personnel," said Singh. "The defence minister's statements only betray the casual manner in which he sees the navy chief and the country's security. One more thing I would like to know from the minister is whether he discussed Joshi's resignation with the President, the supreme commander of the armed forces, and the Cabinet Committee on Security." 

Defence analyst Commodore Uday Bhaskar believes Joshi's resignation is not the solution. "Any new chief will face the same issues," said Bhaskar. "The system has to finally change if anything is to happen. In the last 10 years, the Indian Parliament has not had one serious and informed debate on national security. That tells you a lot. All three forces are handicapped due to procurement delays. The air force has not had trainer aircraft for two decades. The army has not had a new artillery gun after Bofors. The navy has not seen a new submarine for decades." 

What next? 

As it always happens with things inside the establishment, forces in New Delhi have already moved on to the topic of who will succeed Joshi. Even here, there is some controversy, with sources close to different people spinning different tales. 

SK Sinha, the head of the Western Naval Command, is the seniormost vice-admiral around and is set to retire in August. In case he becomes the naval chief, he would get a tenure of two years. 

But there is a lot of opposition to Sinha's candidature. Sources said those close to retired admiral Nirmal Verma have already rallied against Sinha. Verma's brother Bimal is also a vice-admiral. There are already murmurs demanding that Sinha also should immediately resign, taking moral responsibility like Joshi. 

"When the time to promote Sinha to the viceadmiral rank came, Admiral Nirmal Verma pointed out that he had adverse remarks in one annual confidential report," said a source who did not want to be named. "Sinha then went in appeal to Antony, who expunged the remark and promoted him to vice-admiral. When it was time for Sinha to be given a command, Verma again refused. But since his tenure was drawing to a close, the opinion of his successor DK Joshi was sought. He recommended Sinha to head the western naval command in Mumbai." 

Defence ministry sources said a decision is yet to be taken on the next chief. Apart from Sinha, there are four other contenders - viceadmirals Robin Dhowan (who now holds charge), Satish Soni, SPS Cheema and Anil Chopra, all of whom are junior to Sinha. 

Sources added Sinha is unlikely to get the post, and it will be interesting to see if he would be willing to continue under a junior officer. But as a source pointed out quite cynically, "The navy's state will soon be forgotten. Soon, it will all be about who becomes the next chief." 


Troubled waters
A submarine at Naval Dockyard; Above: INS Vindhyagiri, which caught fire in Jan 2011


  1. News for troubled waters spate of mishaps and the ...


    1. Mumbai Mirror ‎- 18 hours ago
      Spate of mishaps and the naval chief's unprecedented resignation have put the focus on everything that ails the Navy.

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