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Mishap on board INS Sindhuratna- Nation has the right to know the reason
Nation has been jolted by a series of accidents on board Indian Naval Ships and Submariners and saddened by the loss of life of brave officers and men. The tendering of resignation by the Chief of Naval Staff DK Joshi has set an precedence of taking responsibility with authority, which may be very difficult for others to follow.
The Media is flooded with news. Some quarter saying, it was a cable fire, others saying it was old submarine battery and some saying a battery leak were the cause which triggered the life threatening accident. Whatever may be the real reason behind, one hopes it will be made public to assuage the nations collective hurt, as it certainly involves safety of the nation.

No one needs to forget the wisdom behind Americans very candidly uploading of what all happened in the Nuclear core melt down in three mile accident. The purpose was to educate the World Community at large in general and their own nationals in particular, with a view to instill confidence about Nuclear Power and more so to stop the occurrence of such accidents in future. Similarly one can hope that Indian Navy does not keep Inquiry Report under wraps. Nation has a reason to know truthful answer.

The Submarines are  supposed to be equipped with  PDU (Personal isolated Breathing Unit) for  100% on board crew plus 10% extra for contingencies and guests. It is surprising that no one is talking  about "PDU" , which provides an individual  with 10 minutes of lifeline, inter-alia, provide life saving oxygen to individual and keeping that individual alive.

An alive Individual only can take corrective Damage Control Action, who  by virtue of oxygen being  provided  chemically  by the  isolated breathing unit,  is thus  capacitated to take  mandated actions of damage control. In the past, Airlines used to teach the passengers  how to  put on the 'ventilator mask' on a child sitting next  and then on self . 

Now they  have realised that  20 second  is too short a time for any average individual  to  force stop his own breathing, save others life first and then saving self. Thus they have changed the teaching guide line, wherein, they now ask passengers to firstly put on their own individual masks, before attempting to save anyone else life, be it ones own child.

The enclosed environment which exists on board an aircraft is identical to that existing on board a submarine. A small spark can create obnoxious gases to kill an individual. Can anyone from the submarine arm  or the Navy tell me,  have the administrators provided 100% "PDU" in each and every  conventional EKM & SSK. And are they changed after expiry of stored life.

Are the Standard Operating Procedures in place, which demand that each & every sailor and officer carry on  his own personal PDU all the time, and that  on sounding/observation of any emergency developing,  all individuals must put on and switch on their  personal  PDU before attempting any Damage Control Exercise

If such an administrative provisioning  of  100% PDU  and SOP is ?not in place?, then the question  needs to be answered  "Why Not?"  Nation  will like to see some honesty on the part of those   sitting  in Naval Headquarters, Submarine Headquarters  and Ministry of Defence, who are responsible for taking such decisions  to answer the question truthfully. ?Denial of truth? one denies oneself the ?Right to improve?.

The men might have been marvellous and full of chivalry, which I personally know that each and every man worth his salt who calls himself a submariner is a very proud individual as he wears his death on those  beautiful ?dolphins?,  which he wears next to his heart.  But,  it  will be  out and out foolhardy, if such a provisioning of 100 % PDU  has not been catered for. No one ought to have the right to play with precious lives of our brave  hearts

Worst still are the news appearing in mainline media saying  'Cable fire' started it all. Oh My God, someone out there is trying to make a fool of whole nation. Some others are  saying 'about a battery leak having started a fire'. Batteries always have an explosive mixture of Hydrogen  beneath the cell cap. The body of indigenously developed batteries  by M/s Standard Batteries is made of PVC material unlike Russian submarine batteries which were made of  hard rubber.

In the initial phase of development even static charge which the cell body was capable of generating and retaining had lead to few small mishaps. These were overcome by development of 'Explosion Proof Cell Caps'  These batteries  are also in use with Iranian Navy who also operate Russian supplied EKMs.   The Batteries are time tested over last 25 years of safe operation. 

Leaks from batteries can be only  of electrolyte and those leaks  can only  be due to  electrolyte spilling over. But  at 1275 specific gravity, such spillages   can only give birth to evolution of some gas fumes because of interaction of sulphuric acid with metal, but can not cause fire.  Gas / fume generated because of electrolyte spillage  will  depend upon quantity of leak / spilling over of electrolyte. The spill over may also happen due to high electrolyte temperature increasing the volume of electrolyte. But that will depend upon  over topping of battery cells with distilled water, in case   cell were topped up more than required quantity.

Another reason can be  excessive dissolved gas during end of charge within electrolyte.   Chlorine gas may get evolved in case topping up of battery was done by salt water contaminated water. But that is ruled out as topping up is generally resorted to alongside in harbour.

Battery  can  only  have an hydrogen explosion and not a fire. An air mixture containing Hydrogen >4% by volume is considered  highly explosive.   The evolved Hydrogen  is  kept under control by burning it inside Hydrogen burners, which takes place in the presence of heated catalyst.  The Compartments which have Battery Pits have stand alone Hydrogen Burners, whereas the Battery Pit  which is always kept isolated barring inspection visits, has  its own hydrogen burning closed loop ventilating system.

Though Battery pits are opened up for ventilation by submarines Main Blowers while charging at snorting depth, during which time, some of the air from beneath the battery pits escapes into Battery Compartment increasing presence of Hydrogen inside compartments. Which in any case is running the stand alone Hydrogen burners.

Considering  reports that the accident took place when submarine was dived at 6 AM, one can  safely adduce that the Submarine must have charged its Batteries while snorting, which completed by 6 AM. The Hydrogen evolution is excessive  towards end of charge.  Some media quarters have given  input that the submarine batteries were old and in the absence of sanction by Ministry of Defence to go in for time tested Standard Batteries as single vendor order, they were replaced with old batteries from INS Sindhurakshak which had only '11' months life left as per warranty.

Certainly, the staff in any case would have carried out Battery Capacity test when it was ashore alongside, before being put to sea post 6 months of repairs. Only > 80% capacity would have given the submarine full operational capability.

Notwithstanding, one needs to find out if the squadron staff had initiated any task such as Quick Dive immediately on completion of Battery Charging. If it was done, it also could be the culprit. Because  the switching over  of ventilation system to Battery autonomous closed loop system  , which has limited  capacity to burn hydrogen , can be done only after % of hydrogen inside the pit has come down to less than 2 %.  

However being confident of competence of  submariners , in my opinion,  some loose  gear in the form of metal part, such as,  say a bolt or nut  or even an inadvertent leaving behind of untapped spanner  lying loose in the vicinity or left inside a battery breaker,  has shorted the naked bus bars,  on submarine developing high diving angle >15 degrees, during a Quick Dive initiated by Headquarters staff as part of exercise.

The President of India, who is also the Supreme Commander of Armed Forces,  will do nation  a favour if he asks Navy to have a team of veteran submariners overseeing the conduct of Board of Inquiry. Nation has a right to know. Only an independent technical proficient  body can establish that. 

It is not like   Old Nuclear Powered Submarine INS Chakra Sonar Capsule getting flooded whilst alongside  or multiple accident on 06th June 1989, which included flooding, jamming of  aft planes, submarine developing diving angle > 20 degrees  while operating at full speed  at 100 % Reactor Power at a depth of 150 metres in a sea having bottom only  at 350 metres fire, a reactor  scram, radiation leak from first  loop, which can be kept under wraps of secrecy, a price too high in the form of resignation by the Naval Chief has already been paid.

Nation deserves an answer..... truthful answer because faith of common man in the armed forces is eroded.



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