Workers dismantle warship INS Vikrant at a ship breaking yard in south Mumbai on Saturday. Over 200 workers have been engaged in the scrapping, which is expected to take about eight months.
Despite last ditch attempts by activists and former navy servicemen to save it, INS Vikrant — the county’s first aircraft carrier — has finally faded away into history.
The BJP, whose leaders had promised to keep the vessel alive before elections, shifted the blame on to the previous Congress–NCP government and said had it acted sooner, Vikrant could have been saved.
The dismantling of the majestic vessel began here on Friday opposite the Darukhana ship breaking yard. The Bombay High Court had given the go-ahead for Vikrant to be auctioned in January, after it rejected a public interest litigation petition to save the vessel and convert it into a maritime museum. The Centre said it was difficult to maintain the vessel.
In March, the Indian Navy sold Vikrant to a Mumbai-based shipbreaking company for Rs. 63 crore.
However, activists moved the apex court in a bid to save the vessel. The Supreme Court in May ordered maintenance of status quo.
Those who had campaigned to save the vessel expressed their regret saying it was a pity that successive governments could not restore a national treasure.
Kiran Paingankar, the activist who headed the ‘Save Vikrant Committee’, said it was a “black day” in the “glorious maritime history of country”. “I tried my best as a layperson to save the vessel. But, in the end, political and naval apathy are to blame. Despite statements and assurances in public by various quarters there was no effort to save it,” he told The Hindu.
The 16,000-tonne ship, which had helped to enforce a naval blockade of East Pakistan — now Bangladesh — during the 1971 war, was decommissioned in 1997.
It was purchased as HMS Hercules from Britain in 1957 and rechristened INS Vikrant. It was formally commissioned into the Indian fleet at Bombay on November 3, 1961.
Former servicemen had made a strong pitch for converting the vessel into a maritime museum. The Vizag Urban Development Authority (VUDA) in Andhra Pradesh had agreed to adopt the vessel as a maritime museum, provided it was brought to the city. However, the Maharashtra government had expressed its inability to preserve the vessel owing to financial constraints.
BJP MP Kirit Somaiya, who had campaigned to save the vessel, described Vikrant’s end as “sad.”
He said that despite fresh attempts by the Narendra Modi government in August/September, it was “two years too late”. “Two years back it was usable but the Cochin shipyard in September said the ship was dead and it was impossible to save it. It had fully eroded and risked falling apart if shifted out of Darukhana. It would have risked making the entire dock unusable for a year,” he said.
The dismantling of Vikrant caused a flutter on social media with Facebook and Twitter users describing it as “heart-breaking,” “shameful” and a “big loss”.
Source: the hindu. 23 November 2014