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SOURCE: PTI

Several fast interception crafts (FICs) of the Indian Navy remained non-operational from 2014 to 2019 due to defective engines for extended periods, a parliamentary committee said in its report on Wednesday. In its report, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) also flayed the Navy, saying it is yet to achieve the complete deployment of officers for the Special Prahari Bal (SPB), despite a significant lapse of 12 years since the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) sanctioned it in February 2009.

The SPB is a maritime force envisaged following the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack with a primary focus on providing security to all coastal and offshore naval assets by carrying out patrolling through FICs.

On November 26, 2008, a group of 10 Pakistani terrorists went on a rampage, carrying out a coordinated attack on a railway station, two luxury hotels and a Jewish centre in Mumbai, after they sneaked into India’s financial capital using the sea route in the Arabian sea from Karachi.

Following the attack, India decided to significantly enhance maritime security.

The formation of the SPB was sanctioned in February 2009 by the CCS with a complement of 1,000 personnel comprising 120 officers, 240 senior sailors and 640 junior sailors to be based at 13 Indian naval ports.

Eighty FICs were sanctioned to be part of the SPB and the CCS, in February 2009, set a three-year timeline for the operationalisation of the force.

The PAC, in its report on the establishment and operationalisation of the SPB, criticised the delays in the procurement of the FICs as well as their operational availability at specific stations.

It said the acquisition of the FICs was approved in August 2011 and added that their delivery was delayed due to initial issues with waterjet selection and subsequent replacements with higher-capacity waterjets.

These led to a delay in the introduction of the FICs by 13 to 61 months beyond the timeline sanctioned by the CCS, the report said.

It said an audit found out that the procurement of the FICs displayed several deviations from the CCS sanction, including a staggered delivery schedule and the induction of additional FICs beyond the sanctioned quantity with different specifications.

“Audit observed that complete deployment of officers for SPB was not achieved despite a lapse of 12 years since the CCS’s sanction (February 2009),” the committee headed by Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said.

The PAC said it had observed that “from 2014 to 2019, several FICs remained non-operational due to defective engines for extended periods”. In this regard, the committee said the Navy informed it that there was no support from any OEM (original equipment maker), CMC (comprehensive maintenance contract) and AMC (annual maintenance contract) firms from October 2013 to October 2015 and subsequently, from July 2017 to February 2018.

No maintenance was carried out during these periods, leading to the engines becoming defective, it said.

The committee, in this context, recommended that the Navy may adopt a systematic approach to conclude annual maintenance contracts well in time to ensure timely repairs and maintenance and avoid the occurrence of such instances of non-availability of AMCs in the future.

On the deployment of the SPB, the PAC said the security scenario has undergone vast changes in the last 12 years and the Indian Navy must continuously upgrade its security measures to address evolving threats.

“The committee, therefore, recommends that in light of the experiences gained in operating the SPB and the evolving security scenario, the Navy must carry out a comprehensive review of the functioning of the Sagar Prahari Bal, so as to ensure future preparedness,” it said.

The committee said it had observed the issue of “defective and sub-optimal Optical Surveillance Equipment (OSS) on the FICs, with a certain number of cameras being only partially operational as of July 2019”.