INS Vikrant memorial plans evoke dispute

Mumbai, June 30 (IANS) Plans to erect a memorial to the Indian Navy’s first aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant kicked up a controversy here on Tuesday.

A prominent activist of the Save Vikrant campaign, Kiran Paigankar, has questioned the need for such a memorial and its proposed venue – on a traffic island at Lion Gate – near the Indian Navy’s western command headquarters in south Mumbai.

The BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had announced its plans for the memorial on Monday.

“We fail to see the need for a memorial like this on such a small location near a high security zone, which will be out of bounds for the public and create security hassles,” Paigankar, the campaign leader for several years, told IANS.

Besides, he said it is still a mystery what kind of a memorial will be constructed out of just two tonnes of metal and material retrieved from the scrapyard where the vessel was broken down.

“If they are planning to make a replica of the imposing, gigantic ship, it would not do justice to the finer aspects of the vessel which spent decades protecting the country,” he added.

Instead, he suggested that the Indian Navy hand over the ship’s huge metal name-plate, weighing several tonnes, which was visible from long distances as a memorial.

“That name-plate – ‘INS Vikrant’ – was massive and can be erected at a suitable location in the city which is frequented freely by tourists and general public instead of the high-security zone that the BMC has suggested,” Paigankar said.

On Monday, the BMC decided to support a plan to make a INS Vikrant Memorial on a traffic island near the entrance to the naval headquarters.

The BMC Standing Committee Chairman Yashodhar Phanse had submitted it in April and the matter got the green signal at a meeting of all group leaders yesterday.

A retired naval officer, Commodore M. Bhada had purchased around two tonnes of metal and materials from the decommissioned INS Vikrant which was scrapped last year, bringing to an end an era in Indian history.

Noted metal sculptor Arzan Khambatta will prepare the model of the ship from the same metal and materials.

Incidentally, Bhada, a former naval pilot who saw action from the same ship during the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war, plans to approach corporate houses for funding to construct and erect the memorial.

INS Vikrant had rendered over two decades of meritorious services to the Indian Navy, played a critical role in safeguarding the country during the 1971 India-Pakistan war.

By 1990s, its conditioned deteriorated alarmingly and it was later decommissioned amidst proposals to convert it into a permanent memorial.

However, the plans got stalled due to funding and other issues, and finally, in late-2014, it was sent to the scrapyard which it met its waterloo.

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