Ahead of monsoon, fearing it could sink, decommissioned INS aircraft carrier Vikrant was towed four nautical miles away from naval dock to a ship breaking yard Wednesday morning.
Acting on a Supreme Court’s order which allowed the ship to be moved, around four tug boats —two in front to pull and two in the rear to balance — took two hours since 9.30 am to move the aircraft carrier to a Mumbai Port Trust owned spot at Lakdi Bunder in the port’s ship breaking yard at Darukhana. The apex court has reserved the final judgment on the status of the vessel as it continues to hear a petition seeking conversion of the iconic battle ship into a museum. The vessel till then continues to be in the joint custody of Indian Navy and private company I. B Commercial Private Limited which won it’s scrap tender last month. The company, which was made a respondent in the petition, has paid Rs 68 crore early this month, and purchased the vessel, but will have to wait before it puts the vessel to scrap.
On Wednesday, the exercise of moving the vessel by four nautical miles cost IB Commercial a cost of Rs 1.2 crore.
Meanwhile, as the vessel was being towed, outside the dockyard at Lion Gate a protest against scrapping the vessel ensued. Newly elected Shiv Sena MPs Arvind Sawant and Rahul Shewale led a protest at Lion Gate in Colaba on Wednesday afternoon, urging the state government to stop INS Vikrant from being demolished for scrap. Ten Shiv sainiks were arrested for participating in the demonstration and raising slogans, the police said.
According to the police, the party did not give prior intimation before around 30 people marched from Kala Ghoda to Lion Gate at 1.30 pm. While Sawant and Shewale went inside the high security naval facility to speak to Navy officers, party workers chanted slogans outside the premises.
“We rushed to the spot after receiving a call. Ten party workers were arrested and charged with forming an illegal assembly and raising slogans. They were let off after paying a bail,” said Rameshwar Supale, senior inspector, Colaba police station. Sawant and Shewale exited Lion Gate at 2.30 pm, Supale said.
“We had moved an application to court for safe custody as monsoon would have pushed towing by six months,” said a company official. While the sale proceeds and insurance has been paid-the navy, which has also been made a respondent in the petition is yet to process the Bill of Sale as it awaits the Supreme Courts decision. The state government had earlier expressed its inability to maintain the 1961 commissioned vessel, with the many in the navy also not keen to retain the vessel on the coast line. With Mumbai harbour being most important access for Indian Navy’s western Command, moving INS Vikrant would help in de-cluttering the entry passage for other active navy vessels, believe officials.
“We will have to act as per the court’s order which is expected in July. For now we will keep her anchored at Darukhana. If the court allows, then scrapping will begin, as it will take a year to bring her down. If the decision is for a museum then again necessary arrangements will have to be done,” said an official from IB Commercial. The vessel now remains anchored and monitored by Navy and IB Commercial officials in a 2,000 feet marked spot at Darukhana till July-when the next hearing comes up before Supreme Court.