April 22, 2021
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Corruption in retrofitting caused accident in INS Sindhuratna

As corrupt practices have already become the routine norms in Ministry of Defence for most defence deals, the contract for retrofit of Indian Navy submarines was directly given to unreliable and inexperienced Russian shipyard, bypassing Rosoboronexport (RoE).  

The RoE which gives state guarantee to a defence contract that is being sought by another country for purchase of armament products and defence services was kept in the dark by Indian Ministry of Defence officials under certain pretext.

Now, no one knows why this practice was followed and who had authorized the MoD officials to deal directly with a private shipyard in Russia. But interestingly ever since the incident happened, the MoD and Defence Minister are changing their statements every alternate day.  

Soon after the naval tragedy off Mumbai Coast, the MoD and Defence Minister A K Antony geared up to damage control mode in a war footing manner to hide the truth and suppress facts that was being demanded by Indian people and family members of armed forces who lost their dear ones.

But lies were constantly fed to general public with impunity and the real cause of accident is still being manipulated as part of higher defence management to save faces and their jobs.

The retrofit job was handed over to Severodvinsk-based Zvezdochka Shipyard (Shipbuilding Center ‘Zvezdochka’) which is a diversified shipbuilding enterprise with a bad track record.

The shipyard has two covered slipways with seven shipbuilding yards, which are designed for retrofitting and construction of vessels with a launching weight of up to 18,000 tons but the company has failed to deliver most of its jobs on time to several foreign customers in the past.

The firm is majority owned by Northern Shipbuilding and Ship Repair Center, part of JSC United Shipbuilding Corporation. Now the shipyard is facing acute labor problems and it badly needs restructuring.

It is however quite intriguing to note that how the MoD reposed faith in the shipyard despite such a bad record for the retrofit job of submarines.

According to Naval sources, the cables which were installed in INS Sindhuratna as part of retrofitting of the submarine had been found to be substandard and faulty.

The retrofit contract was negotiated in a discreet manner and RoE was kept out of the picture. Instead of handing over the contract to RoE, Indian MoD went to deal with the unreliable shipyard directly.  

“The RoE may ask for its commission but it is responsible for a state contract and it conducts quality control of defence products and services in a regular manner,” said a foreign export control official of Russian Defence Ministry in Moscow.         

The tragic incident involving INS Sindhuratna has shown as how the Indian Ministry of Defence works in theory and in practice.

The grave mishandling of sensitive projects and wide spread corruption have led to such incidents and the INS Sindhuratna incident is 13th incident in last seven months involving the Navy.

The name of one defence agent called D Gupta is also coming out who could be the kingpin in the entire deal for retrofit.

The shipyard is learnt to have got cables put in INS Sindhuratna from Finland but in reality it was procured from some east European country to maximize profit. The bribes in this deal could be into millions of dollars.

But probe report of this accident is being manipulated at higher level to give it a battery failure angle so that nobody questions the corruption in retrofit job in which defence agents and some MoD officials may have earned a good fortune.