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Vikrant — a floating museum to be ready by 2006

MUMBAI, MARCH 11. The full-fledged maritime museum on board the decommissioned aircraft carrier Vikrant will be ready by 2006, Vice-Admiral Madanjit Singh, the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Western Naval Command (WNC), said.

The entire project is expected to cost around Rs. 60 crores of which Rs. 20 crores would be spent by the Maharashtra Government for the construction of a walkway from the BPT Garden till Oyster Rock where the ship will be docked.

The Union Defence Minister, George Fernandes, had sometime back announced a Central assistance of around Rs. 40 crores for this project. Also, the Union Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Ram Naik, has promised that the project will get some funds from the government-run oil companies.

Talking to reporters on board Delhi-class missile destroyer `INS Mumbai' off the Goa coast, he said the repair of the hull of the 22,000-tonne ship is being undertaken and later this year the process of docking will commence.

Vice Admiral Singh said that in the next one-and-a-half years a trust would also be formed to maintain a museum aboard Vikrant, that played a lead role in 1971 Indo-Pak War when Bangladesh was liberated. Vice Admiral Singh said that the trust would be headed by the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief and would have officials from the Indian Navy, Maharashtra Government and Brihan-Mumbai Municipal Corporation.

Vikrant, which is currently berthed at over two centuries-old Naval Dockyard here, was partially converted into a museum a couple of years ago, but its full-fledged conversion into a museum was pending as the Maharashtra Government, which had evinced interest in the project earlier, could not provide adequate funds.

The global tender floated by Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA) had failed to attract investors. But the Defence Ministry has now decided to play a leading role to save a piece of India's maritime history with which the sentiments of the armed forces in general, and Navy in particular, are attached.

Admiral Singh said that once the full-fledged museum is ready, more artefacts will be added to the present collection.

The aircraft carrier, which served the Indian Navy for nearly 36 years, was decommissioned on January 31, 1997. The ship was commissioned on March 4, 1961 in the United Kingdom by Vijayalaxmi Pandit. Prior to that, she served with the Royal Navy as `HMS Hercules'.

Though the State Government -- during the erstwhile Shiv Sena-BJP regime and the present Congress-led Democratic Front (DF) Government -- showed interest in the project, the decommissioned carrier ran into the rough weather several times because of fund constraints.

`INS Vikrant' played a key role in the 1971 Indo-Pak war, notably the Naval blockade of the then East Pakistan. The floating airfield virtually sealed the Bay of Bengal, and the `Sea Hawk' fighters that took off from the carrier destroyed the Cox's Bazaar and Chittagong. The ship, while in service, provided air umbrella of 350 nautical miles around the fleet.

UNI

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