A naval officer was killed and two shipyard workers were injured on Friday in an accident involving the force's newest stealth destroyer, INS Kolkata, which was being tested at the Mazagon Dock Limited (MDL) in Mumbai.
Commander Kuntal Wadhwa, an engineering officer, died after he inhaled carbon dioxide.
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The mishap comes nine days after Admiral DK Joshi stepped down as navy chief, taking moral responsibility for the recent accidents. The BJP on Friday asked defence minister AK Antony to accept responsibility and step down, even as the government is yet to name Joshi's successor.
Joshi resigned on February 26, the day two officers were killed and seven sailors injured in an accident on-board INS Sindhuratna, the 11th mishap after the INS Sindhurakshak sank last August killing 18 personnel.
The carbon dioxide fire fighting system on the soon-to-be commissioned warship (currently designated Yard-12701) was being evaluated when the mishap occurred. “One of the valves on the carbon dioxide bottles malfunctioned leading to leakage of gas. The officer inhaled it,” a navy official said. Wadhwa wasn’t wearing protective gear.
The navy has ordered a probe.
The Sindhuratna accident
The 6,800-tonne destroyer, part of navy's Project-15A, was to be inducted in March-end. But the accident could cast a shadow on the Rs. 15,000-crore project, which is running four years behind schedule. It has recorded a cost escalation of 225%.
The MDL is building three destroyers under the project, with INS Kolkata being the lead ship of the class. Two other warships, INS Kochi and INS Chennai, are scheduled to be delivered by mid-2015.
The mishap has raised questions about the quality of workmanship at the yard. The MDL is building six Scorpene submarines under a Rs. 23,562-crore project, codenamed P-75, which is five years behind schedule.
The defence ministry has attributed cost escalations in P-15A to delay in supply of steel by Russia, increased wages for Russian specialists and delays in the finalisation of costs of weapons and sensors.
In 2011, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had slammed the work culture and functioning of defence public sector undertakings. It had also condemned the ministry and the navy for poor management of contracts and not taking steps to augment infrastructure at shipyards.
A navy official said the force could not be held responsible for the INS Kolkata mishap as the boat had not been handed over to it yet. Most of the recent accidents took place due to navigational errors, delay in awarding a dredging contract in Mumbai, deviation from standard operating procedures and component failures.
The accidents under Joshi's watch had not only tarnished his track record as chief but also complicated his relationship with the defence ministry.
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