Last minute bid to save Viraat: Now, Maharashtra government offers to preserve India’s first aircraft carrier
‘We as a nation must use our decommissioned naval ships to help citizens to better understand the significance of India’s maritime history’, Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi wrote to Defence Minister
Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi has written to Defence Minister Rajnath Singh to convey the Maharashtra government’s offer to restore and preserve INS Viraat, India's first aircraft carrier till it was decommissioned in 2017, which is presently on the verge of being dismantled and scrapped by a ship-breaking firm in Gujarat’s Alang.
"We as a nation must use our decommissioned naval ships to help citizens to better understand the significance of India's maritime history,” she wrote. “It saddens me further to note that though there is an offer to convert the warship into a maritime museum, it awaits a no-objection certificate from the Ministry of Defence for transfer of the warship," she added, as per a NDTV report.
Chaturvedi requested the Ministry of Defence to issue a no-objection certificate to preserve Viraat, even as Envitech Marine Consultants Private Limited, the private firm keen to acquire the warship and convert it into a maritime museum, moved the Supreme Court today after the Ministry made it clear during proceedings in Bombay HC that it will not issue an NOC.
National Herald had earlier reported that the Ministry of Defence had rejected the eleventh-hour plan to try and save Viraat from being broken up for scrap. The Ministry claimed in Bombay HC that Shree Ram Group of Industries, the Alang-based ship-breaking firm which bought the decommissioned warship from the Indian Navy for scrap, is opposed to its sale, although its owner went on record saying he was willing to sell the ship.
"Unfortunately, this has now become a game of 'chicken and egg'," Rupali Sharma, Envitech’s MD was quoted as saying. "The seller won't sell without the NOC and now the Ministry of Defence won't issue the NOC as it claims the seller doesn't want to sell. The clear intent is to proceed with destroying the ship."
Incidentally, last week, a British trust had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson asking for their assistance in saving Viraat. The Hermes Viraat Heritage Trust, in its letters, had suggested that if all else fails, India allow the warship to be towed back to the United Kingdom for a maritime museum to be set up.
Acquired from the United Kingdom in 1986 after an extensive refit, the INS Viraat came to define Indian Naval power with its fleet of Sea Harrier fighter jets. Before that, Viraat had served as HMS Hermes in the Royal Navy and played a decisive role in the 1982 Falkland Islands conflict when the UK went to war against Argentina in the South Atlantic.