INS Betwa mishap is not a one-off. Navy has lost 30 sailors since 2010
On Monday, an Indian Naval ship, INS Betwa, capsized while undocking in Mumbai, leaving two sailors dead and another 14 injured.
But this isn't a one-off for the Indian Navy. More than a dozen incidents have occurred on the navy's ships and submarines during maintenance, at sea, and while landing, in which 30 sailors have lost their lives. Eighteen of these died in a single accident on board INS Sindhurakshak. In all, the navy has lost one submarine and three ships since 2004.
This number excludes smaller incidents where Indian ships have collided with fishing vehicles, or have caught fire during maintenance.
If one takes all this in account, the record of the Indian Navy in maintaining its ships and taking care of its sailors isn't too bright.
According to some reports, during peace time, the Indian Navy has lost, on an average, one ship every five years and one sailor every two years.
- Three crew members killed on destroyer INS Mumbai after an AK-630 Gatling gun went off. Inquiries found that basic safety drills were not followed.
- INS Vindhyagiri, a Nilgiri class frigate, collided with a merchant tanker in Mumbai harbour. The damage was so severe that it had to be decommissioned soon after the accident.
- This was when the navy's worst peace-time tragedy occurred. Fifteen sailors and three officers were killed when a series of blasts rocked what many believed was the Indian Navy's most capable submarine - INS Sindhurakshak. Just four months before the accident, the submarine had undergone a two-and-a-half-year long refit in Russia.
- That wasn't all in 2013. The Russian-made INS Talwar, which cost India Rs 1,500 crore, collided with fishing trawler with 27 fishermen on board, four of whom were seriously injured.
- Just two weeks later, INS Betwa, the same ship that met with the accident on Monday, ran aground near Mumbai Naval base, causing massive damage to the stealth frigate's critical equipment. Captains of both the Talwar and the Betwa were relieved of their duties.
- In the same year, fire broke out on board the INS Sindhuratna, a kilo-class submarine, causing the deaths of two sailors. At the time, an inspection was taking place after a massive refit. The then navy chief, Admiral DK Joshi, had resigned, taking moral responsibility for the spate of accidents involving naval assets.
- Another incident in 2014 involved Commander Kuntal Wadhwa, the chief engineer-designate of INS Kolkata. He was killed due to a toxic gas leak caused by a technical malfunction.
- Another sailor died in the same year after a torpedo recovery vessel (TRV) sank 30 nautical miles south of Visakhapatnam.
- One sailor died after succumbing to his injuries caused while combating a fire and steam leak in one of the boiler rooms of INS Viraat.
- Another sailor lost his leg, while two others were injured in an oxygen cylinder explosion on board INS Nireekshak.
- In June, two people, a sailor and a civilian contractor, were killed by a toxic gas leak that occurred during maintenance work in the Sewage Treatment Plant compartment during the first refit of the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya at Karwar.
- In December, two sailors were killed when INS Betwa, a 3,800-tonne Brahmaputra class frigate keeled over while being undocked at the naval dockyard in Mumbai. The frigate was said to be the most capable fighter of Western Naval Command. It was fitted with advanced Israeli, Russian and Indian armaments.
Edited by Shreyas Sharma
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