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


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.

Read other posts by Shailesh Ranade:

(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)

15 thoughts on “INS Andaman, INS Vindhyagiri, INS Sindhurakshak, next INS?

  1. The UPA “Bhagwan Bharose” culture has seeped into Sena Bhavan. 2013 has been particularly disastrous.
    The Army has lost men and territory to the Pakis and Chinese.
    The Airforce has lost 5 fighters and 2 helicopters.
    The silent service Navy has come in with a big bang losing an entire submarine and 18 souls.
    The author is correct. The root cause is at the top.

  2. What is this country leading to. Our once proud uniformed men seem to be grappling with serious issues. Is it training, maintenance or money?


  4. Well done. The Navy has been operating submarines for close to 50 years but has no submarine rescue facility at all. The Navy Chief talked about air pockets and breathing apparatus little realising that he was talking to the media 12 hours after the explosion. Bumbling as usual.

  5. This is the actual scenario in the defence forces. This is how the tax payers money is wasted and the country is given a false sense of security. The dirty tricks are hidden from the public who still feel that the armed forces are second to none.

  6. this is also there in private manufacturing companies leading to sub stranded products for india.

  7. The author of this honest piece correctly states that that heads must roll. This accident is a very serious matter. I can only compare it with the loss of the oil platform Deepwater Horizon. The BP Boss Tony Hayward had to go. Similarly, The CNS and the C-in-C have to go!!.

  8. I researched submarine accidents worldwide but could not come up with any submarine that was lost in a harbour in peace time. All other submarines were either lost on patrol or to enemy action. Sadly Sindhurakshak has this unique distinction.

  9. Explosions in areas where there are combustibles and explosives is always due to poor monitoring techniques and insufficient safety procedures and training.

    1. My take is that this is a crew error. Casualness coupled with hurring up things at the last minute.

  10. “Safety” vs “Lethality” Indeed. And ergonomics.Applies to MIG 21, all Russian weapons and armour on IN Ships. BUT,

    weapons systems are dangerous. A submarine by its confined space and
    concise design, that reduces the margins of error, more so. The
    slightest deviation from the laid down procedures either by accident,
    oversight, panic, lack of training or insouciance can have the most
    dangerous consequences. According to reports, there were two explosions,
    the first an orange flame and the second of intense white while the
    batteries had just been charged and the weapons systems were being armed
    preparatory to a voyage. As regards the physics, it depends on the
    nature of the explosive. Whether the pace of expansion of the released
    gasses is obstructed or not and the nature of the obstruction. It is conceivable
    (imagined and NOT necessarily probable)
    that the first of the two observed fires might have started off by an
    ignition of Hydrogen from the recharged batteries that had been trapped
    inside the hull (without having been pumped out due to human over sight
    or malfunction of the ventilators) caused by a spark of static
    electricity from non cotton clothing rubbing against the inner hull.
    According to reports, such an accident had occurred on the same ship at
    Vizag before refurbishment. This might have caused a panic while the
    arming (i.e. the fitment of fuse and war heads to propulsion systems)
    was being undertaken in the torpedo room or missile silos. This might
    have led to fumbling and set off the electrical fuse and consequently a
    war head which was the second explosion seen. That the rest of the
    weapons systems did not go off eliminates the conjecture that they were
    of so unstable a nature as to go off due to heat or sympathetic
    vibration. This is just one of any number of plausible scenarios.
    Visualising all of them might become a Bollywood like exercise with
    themes and variations in the details that those who are paid to do it,
    the court of enquiry, film script writers and journalists, should. The
    question that may never be asked is whether India’s Sixty six year old “Neta-Babu,
    Quota-Corruption Raj” culture can sustain an effective military force or
    even sovereignty:

  11. The “Made in Russia” tag these days is as good or bad as the “Made in India” tag. The Russia that succeeded the Soviet Union is not as good as is being made out. Therefore, you see delays, price escalation, substandard work etc. Sindhurakshak is a product of that culture.

  12. Gases from Battery: Lack of monitoring: Human Error
    Oil Fire: Bad house keeping: Human error
    Electrical Fire: Bad electrical hygiene: Human Error
    Torpedo Explosion: Height of stupidity: Human Error
    Missile Explosion: Height of stupidity: Human Error
    So it is Human Error. Short cuts all the way. Bhaqwan Bharose

  13. The Board of Inquiry has no expertise at all in such matters. They will have to go back to the Russians as they are the ones who know the nuts and bolts of the Kilo Class. The Navy has to first float the boat. Again they have no expertise or capability. Probably those who lifted Vindhyagiri or Kursk willl be approached.
    A BOI report in 4 weeks is impossible. 9 days are already over.

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