Navy Fights Perception Battle over Mishaps
It’s a sinking feeling for the Navy since INS Sindhurakshak’s internal explosions, which claimed 18 lives last year. It has been fighting a battle over perception that all its warships do is to run aground and its officers indulge in ‘moral turpitude’, a senior Ministry of Defence official said here.
The battle began, not on August 14, 2013, when INS Sindhurakshak sank, but on November 20 that year at a Navy commanders’ conference here, when Defence Minister A K Antony asked the force not to ‘fritter away’ its assets built using national resources.
Since then, only one major accident involving its warships, worth taking note of, has occurred. But an impression that has gained ground now is that nine of its warships have either run aground or are damaged after a fire or ramming into other ships, he said.
The only major accident that invited disciplinary action, after the INS Sindhurakshak explosions, involved INS Talwar, a frigate.
The warship had on December 23, 2013, night rammed into an unlit fishing vessel in the Arabian Sea off Ratnagiri in Maharashtra, throwing the 27 fishermen on board into the waters. The fishermen were rescued by the warship crew and returned to Ratnagiri is altogether another matter.
“The other seven incidents are so minor in nature that if not for INS Sindhurakshak and Antony’s jibe at the Navy, these would not have even found a mention,” he said. Even the one last week, when the propellers of INS Airavat, an amphibious warfare ship, touched the naval dockyard bed as it was manoeuvring its docking at the jetty, is not ‘running aground’.
A Navy officer Captain Manoj Rawat, who got into an extra-marital affair with college mate and a divorced wife of another naval officer, was recommended to be sacked by the force after a probe last week. His relationship with the woman, who later complained after Rawat told her he could not marry her as he was already married with kids, happened when he was at a defence management course in Secunderabad two years ago.
But now, it is being projected as though he could have leaked naval secrets on the basis of his last posting at the Naval war room, despite Navy clearly saying that it was only a case of ‘moral turpitude’, a euphemism for sexual misconduct, and that the material the woman sent to the Defence Ministry along with her complaint against the officer, was only the officer’s own study material from his Secunderabad management college.