INS Andaman, INS Vindhyagiri, INS Sindhurakshak, next INS?

BY SHAILESH RANADE

The footage on TV was crystal clear. Both, light and sound could be seen and heard miles away. Definitely, a part of INS Sindhurakshak has been blown to smithereens. I am aghast at ‘naval experts’ who say that Sindhurakshak can be put back into action. This asset is a complete loss.

For the Naval Chief to state that he does not know the extent of damage is, both, right and wrong. He may not know the extent of internal damage but the Navy would know the external damage within a few hours. Naval divers would have gone around the vessel with underwater cameras and completed the videography in less than two hours. This itself would have provided a clue of what had exploded, prima facie.

But this piece is not about blaming the Sub Commander or his crew. They have acquitted themselves bravely under the most stressful conditions that exist in our forces today. Holistically, the Navy is no different than the Army or the Air Force.

The present day Armed Forces are run on a day-to-day basis by two Bollywood terms. “Chalta Hai” and “Bhagwan Bharose”.

If the Board of Inquiry (BOI) were to carry out an impartial Root Cause Analysis, the blame would go to the very top. Yes, the very top. This is a systems failure. It is not whether the detection sensors were working or not. It’s not about the substandard material state, even though it had been recently retrofitted. It’s not about the possible casual attitude of the crew. The point is how did the Navy get to this state?

The Navy Chief has admitted on national television that the “safety mechanisms have not functioned”. My dear Chief, why was the submarine fully loaded up and operational, if even basic safety devices were not working? It is obvious, that the Sub Commander would have had a long list of deficiencies, but all his pleadings would have been overlooked to make the Sub operational. This is an example of systems failure that reaches the very top.

There are a couple of reasons for this:

  • Officers down the line are encouraged to hide defects and lie. A ship reporting a defect is taken as a demerit. Therefore on paper, a ship/submarine/ aircraft would appear to be sea worthy and combat worthy when everyone knows it is not.
  • Ninety per cent of the work carried out in the dockyards is only during overtime. Wonder how productivity is measured? The culture is to while away your time (9 to 4) and make double money thereafter. This is often rushed through towards the end of the refit.
  • The QA/QC and Certification Authorities are a joke when in fact they should be the most ruthless. Nobody takes them seriously. After all, they too, need to get promoted.
  • Arbitrary austerity measures that make our platforms operate with deficient and substandard equipment. The time has come for our Chiefs to thump the PM’s table.
  • Original foreign spare parts that may well be outsourced to some Ludhiana spare parts dealer. That’s indigenisation for us.

The BOI should fearlessly probe senior officers and their role in this catastrophe. The identification of the root cause will automatically bring about a proactive rather than a reactive culture. In addition, a non-punitive policy towards problem identifiers is required.

The Submarine that cost the taxpayer Rs 1500 crores is lost. Eighteen sea warriors are “missing” for no fault of theirs. This is the costliest 60 seconds the country has ever had.

Sindhurakshak was only a conventional submarine. Imagine if it was a nuke? The “Chalta Hai” and “Bhagwan Bharose” culture has to go. This can only trickle from the top to the bottom. And yes, heads have to roll please.

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(Shailesh Ranade is a Guest Blogger with the Canary Trap. The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Canary Trap or any employee thereof)