15 Naval mishaps in one year: No lessons learnt?

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INS Sindhurakshak. (File photo)
The news of 15th naval mishap in less than a year has once again raised concerns over safety and security of naval personnel and assets. In a latest incident, a warship suffered damage in June while operating in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Navy has ordered a detailed investigation into the matter but a question that crosses every mind is that what is the reason for such a surge in such mishaps?

INS Kuthar-- a Khukri class corvette-- suffered damage while entering the harbour of a naval base in Andamans and is undergoing repairs there. The warship was returning after operating in rough weather.

The accident brings chilling reminder of the sinking of the Russian-origin submarine INS Sindhurakshak in August last year in which all the 18 personnel on board were killed.

Past incidents:

The major mishaps include last year's sinking of INS Sindhurakshak on August 14, fire on board aircraft carrier INS Virat on September 22, fire on board INS Konkan on December 4 and accident of INS Talwar with a fishing trawler.

15 naval mishaps in less than a year raise serious safety concerns

In 2014, the INS Betwa developed a crack in its SONAR dome. There was also running aground of submarine INS Sindhughosh, damage to the propeller of INS Airavat in Vishakhapatnam and death of two Navy officers on board INS Sindhuratna due to a fire incident.

Taking moral responsibility in the spate of accidents in the Navy, Former Navy Chief Admiral DK Joshi resigned from his post and sought voluntary retirement from the maritime force on February 26.

Government's response in the Parliament:

The newly appointed Defence Minister Arun Jaitley in written answers told the Parliament last week that the Navy is conducting a number of Board of Inquiries into the mishaps involving the assets of the force.

"Lessons learnt from the Board of Inquiry (Bols) are being implemented. Corrective steps have been taken by Naval Headquarters with extensive checks on weapon related safety systems and audit of Standard Operating Procedures on all operational naval units," Jaitley told Parliament.

The Minister said safety procedures and professional checks are being re-emphasised and 'Incidents Study and Analysis Cells' have been instituted at professional schools wherein lessons learnt are incorporated into professional training.

It's time for action:

Although a Board of Inquiry (BoI) under a senior officer has been formed in the INS Kuthar mishap as well, but a pertinent question arises over what possibly led to such a mishap and those occurred in the past. One cannot deny that the precautionary measures were compromised which resulted into these accidents. It is imperative that what have our naval officers learnt from the past incidents?

Fifteen instances of naval mishaps within a year have certainly put the competence of Indian Navy's operations under dock. There is a need for the naval high command as well as the government to introspect in this regard. There have been enough of Board of Inquiries instituted it is time for action now. Accountability needs to be fixed and heads should be rolled to instill a sense of fear among officials who failed to discharge their duties which led to such mishaps. This would also ensure fellow officers to be on their toes.

The Government as a part of military modernisation drive has allocated Rs 2.29 lakh crore for the Defence Ministry in the Budget, marking an increase of around 12.5 per cent from the last fiscal, but all this will go in vain if cases like these are not curbed.

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