Indian Navy questioned by parliament panel about its ‘spurt of accidents’

New Delhi, Dec 20 (IANS) With at least 11 major accidents in 2014, the Indian Navy is yet to figure out what caused four of them, leading to a sharp rap on the knuckles from a parliamentary panel.

The navy, in response to the queries of the parliamentary standing committee on defence, gave a list of 11 major accidents in 2014. Atleast three were caused by crew error while material failure caused two and electrical failure was blamed for two.

In the case of four accidents, including the sinking of torpedo recovery vessel IN TRV A 72, the causes are still being investigated.

IN TRV A 72 sank off Visakhapatnam on Nov 6, 2014. The body of one sailor was recovered while four remain missing and are presumed dead.

“The committee note that in case of accidents occurring post-April 2014, the Ministry of Defence, in its reply, has stated that board (of enquiry) proceedings are under

examination. The ATR (action taken report) has been received on 14 August, 2015 and the committee opine that the time period of one year is sufficient time in our technology-driven dispensation to assess the reasons for accidents,” the committee said in a report tabled during parliament’s ongoing winter session.

The other accidents which are still being looked into include damage to the propellers of INS Kuthar, a Khukri-class corvette, while coming alongside at Port Blair; INS Cheetah touching the channel bottom while entering Kochi harbour, and INS Kora’s collission with a merchant vessel.

On a fatal accident on INS Kolkata, the first of a new class of stealth guided missile destroyers and the largest warship yet built in the country, that took place while it was at Mumbai’s Mazagon Dockin March 2014, the panel has sought an explanation on “accepting sub-standard material”.

The navy, in its response on the outcome of the investigations, said no individual or organisation was held responsible for the accident.

“No individual or organization was held responsible for the cause of incident, and the incident was treated as an accident. The death of the officer is considered a ‘attributable to service’,” the navy said rather crasly.

To this, the committee questioned the “reason behind acceptance of sub-standard material and how is it possible that neither the supplier organisation/individual nor any quality check personnel have been held responsible”.

An officer was killed and a worker injured after inhaling carbon dioxide that leaked from a container.

With a number of accidents being attributed to crew failure, the panel said crew error is a “reflection of the training provided”.

“Error by the crew is a reflection on the training provided at the training institutions and refresher courses conducted by them. Therefore, the committee desire that the ministry should revisit its training curriculum to obviate lapses in the future,” the panel said.

The panel, in an earlier report had sought an explanation for the spurt of accidents in the navy. “There have been a spurt in accidents of naval vessels in the recent past which include INS Sindhurakshak, INS Vipul, INS Talwar, etc. The committee are highly concerned about the increasing number of accidents in defence vessels,” the panel said.

It added that these accidents result not only in material loss but also in irrepairable loss of human lives besides putting a “question mark on the level of maintenance and security”.

It has also asked the defence ministry to ensure that these cases be investigated and reach culmination.

The navy faced several accidents over 2013 and 2014. On February 27, 2014, the navy chief, Admiral D.K. Joshi, resigned citing “accidents and incidents which have taken place during the past few months”.

The resignation came after the accident on the submarine INS Sindhuratna, which led to the court martial of its commanding officer, who had inhaled toxic gases during the accident and came back from the jaws of death.

Six other officers, found culpable in the accident, were each awarded a letter of severe displeasure (LOSD).(Anjali Ojha can be contacted at anjali.o@ians.in)

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