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|May 6, 1999||
Navy decides to auction Vikrant
The ambitious project of converting the decommissioned aircraft carrier Vikrant into a maritime museum-cum-helipad, which sailed through rough weather has finally run aground, with the Indian Navy deciding to auction the ship.
The curtains were finally down for the Rs 760 million mega project, as the Maharashtra government which showed interest in the project could not even manage Rs 50 million for dry-docking and refurbishing the aircraft carrier.
''The Maharashtra government has not moved and everything has remained standstill. We have waited for over two-and-a-half years... And the upkeep of the ship is costing us money regularly,'' said vice admiral Madhvendra Singh, flag officer commanding-in-chief of western naval command. ''We have got the orders for de-equipping the 18,000-tonne warship and the process of tendering would begin soon'', he added.
Had the project of turning Vikrant into a museum taken off, it would have been the first of its kind in the whole of Asia and a magnet for tourists. As it now stands anyone with Rs 200 million can purchase Vikrant in scrap after an official notice, which is expected soon, is passed.
Vikrant, which is docked in Bombay harbour, has been steadily rusting. Moreover, it has occupied a huge berth thereby stalling other activities, and in the likelihood of its sinking it would be difficult to revive the berth, naval sources said. And apart from what its maintenance was costing the navy there was also the problem of deploying the necessary manpower for its upkeep.
At the outset itself the central government had decided to write off Rs 180 million to enable the Maharashtra government to embark on the project more easily. However, the state government could not even mobilise the Rs 50 million required for refurbishing the ship and prevent it from sinking. It had also been decided to hire consultants for a feasibility study but the state government failed to do that too.
The Bombay Port Trust had earlier objected to the project, but finally the hurdles were cleared and it was decided that the project site will be in south Bombay. Then began the problem with the environmentalists and fisher folk, who started lobbying against the project. They argued that the proposed docking place is rich in marine life and fisher folk will lose jobs.
While the project required Rs 760 million as investment and Rs 1.5 million for monthly expenses, the revenue generated through the museum and helipad would have been enormous. It was proposed that the museum be managed by a trust of representatives comprising members from the navy, state government, the port trust, municipal corporation, citizens' council, police, industrialists and financiers. The proceeds were to be managed by the trust.
But now with the decision to auction Vikrant all that is sadly a thing of the past.
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