As the daughter of a naval officer, the sister of two and the mother of one, it grieves me — as all of us in the family — each time the Navy or the armed forces suffer what the media and the top brass of the forces refer to as “incidents/accidents.” It is an undeniable fact that our equipment is obsolete, and so our safety standards are compromised. And this leads to the ‘n’ number of errors, both human and mechanical, that in turn cause these “mishaps.” I also wonder if the most recent incident, and the consequent action of the (now, sadly, former) Naval chief, rendered in the highest traditions of the services, will impact what is to come — better equipment and therefore better safety standards. The media have also done good service. We, the families of sailors who sail the high seas, hope, pray and live with the faith that at least lord Varuna will have mercy. “Sham No Varuna” is the prayer on every mariner’s lips, and their families.
Two young men, Lt. Commander Kapish Muwal and Lt. Manoranjan Kumar, have had to die for no fault of theirs. To know that a submarine’s ageing power pack was not replaced in a refit and that it was a flaw that “escaped attention during earlier harbour trials” is unbelievable. It is extremely disheartening that the Indian Navy has many flaws, especially at a time when our services are going all out to recruit youngsters to serve the nation, promising them “a glorious career and an opportunity to live their dreams.”
Drishya V. Nair,
The series of reports on the state of our defence forces (Feb. 28) is alarming and evoke deep anger. It is a shame that our men and women in uniform have to also face the additional challenge of working with substandard, obsolete or even no equipment while carrying out their duties. The government has a weak policy on equipment upgradation.
It saddens one that procrastination has played a major role in the tragedy. The Admiral can be considered responsible if the incident happened because of a lack of control over his officers leading to inefficiency, but it is clear that he is a disciplinarian, a man of integrity and a leader who supported crucial modernisation. The Defence Minister has called him a “very good Admiral.” The Minister should have resigned.
The state of our three services is disturbing, making fighting for or defending our nation an almost impossible task. It will be no exaggeration to say that we may have to eventually fight our enemies in hand-to-hand combat. It is horrifying that a Defence Secretary once said that buying arms is like buying vegetables! There has to be a public inquiry by eminent citizens, presided over by a sitting Supreme Court judge, on our defence preparedness.
A serviceman understands that he/she has to obey orders and be prepared to lay down his/her life for the country when needed. What we see today is a sheer waste of our well-motivated and trained servicemen and women due to ageing equipment. Nothing seems to work, be it fighter aircraft, submarines, ships, tanks or guns. There is even a shortfall of officers.
The next government must convene a special session of Parliament to deal with the issue and stop indulging in false-speak. In India, “politicians enjoy power without any responsibility, bureaucrats wield authority without any accountability and the military assumes responsibility without any direction.” The government must meet face-to-face with the service chiefs.