September 2, 2022 was a day of pride for every Indian. After Prime Minister Narendra Modi commissioned India's first indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant in Kochi, India joined the select club of nations that build their own aircraft carriers. India is the sixth country after US, UK, Russia, China and France, which have built indigenous aircraft carriers. Secondly, the last vestige of colonial rule (St. George's Cross) was removed from the ensign of Indian Navy. It was replaced by a new ensign inspired by the seal of Maratha emperor Shivaji Maharaj.INS Vikrant, built at a cost of Rs 20,000 crore in 13 years, with fully indigenous material and skill, is a glowing testimonial to Prime Minister Modi's push towards Atmanirbhar Bharat. It showcases the might and capability of the emerging Indian defence sector. Using military grade steel, nearly 76 per cent of the components of the carrier have been developed in India by defence public sector units, top private companies and over 100 medium and small scale units.
INS Vikrant can operate 20 aircraft like Mig-29K fighter jets, Kamov-31 and MH-60R multi-role helicopters, apart from advanced light helicopters. It has state-of-the-art communication and electronic warfare systems developed by public sector company Bharat Heavy Electricals.
Vikrant has the most complex Integrated Platform Management System (IPMS) in the entire Indian naval fleet. It is 262 metre long, 59 metre tall and 62 metre wide and its hangar bay is the size of two large football fields. 12 fighter jets and six helicopters can be parked on the carrier's deck. The aircraft carrier can keep an eagle's eye on a radius of nearly 400 km on high seas. It is fitted with anti-aircraft guns and missiles. There are 2,300 compartments in the ship which can house nearly 1,700 officers and other ranks of the Navy. The carrier can operate 20 fighter jets, 10 helicopters, 32 missiles, and is equipped with 4 AK-320 anti-aircraft guns. It is practically a floating military base equipped with anti-submarine warfare system and anti-surface warfare systems.
There are two runways, one long and the other short, on the deck for takeoff and landing. It has a 16-bed hospital and three galleys where at least 5,000 meals can be made every day with electrical appliances. Bharat Electronics Ltd, BHEL, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers, Cochin Shipyard Ltd, Mishra Dhatu Nigam, Tata Advanced Systems, Keltron, Larsen & Toubro, Wartsila India, Johnson Controls India and Kirloskar took part in building this indigenous aircraft carrier.
In comparison, USS Gerald R. Ford is presently the word's biggest aircraft carrier, 337 m long and 78 m wide, weighing 1 lakh tonne and carrying more than 40,000 marines and 80 fighter planes. China's biggest aircraft carrier is Fujian, which is 316 m long and 76 m wide, weighs more than 80,000 tonnes. It was launched in June and is presently undergoing fitting process. It can carry more than 40 fighter planes.
In his address, Prime Minister Modi said, Vikrant is massive, distinguished and special, it is the nectar (amrit) of our Amrit Mahotsav, it is reflects India's strong will power to achieve its objectives. "It is a tribute to the rising spirits of India on the global horizon. We are realizing the dream of our freedom fighters, who envisioned a capable and strong India. Vikrant is India's answer to the challenges that we face", Modi said.
Modi inspected guard of honour and watched a fly past by helicopters from the deck. Undoubtedly, the induction of INS Vikrant will act as a force multiplier for the strength and capability of Indian navy. India can seek dominance in Indo-Pacific region and the carrier can act as a big deterrent for our enemies. That is why, Modi said on Friday, "No challenge is too difficult for India today. Vikrant has filled us with a new confidence".
Modi also outlined India's strategic vision for its blue water navy. "We believe in a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific. As India moves rapidly towards a $5 trillion economy, our share in global trade will increase. A large part of it will inevitably be through maritime routes. In such a situation, INS Vikrant will be crucial as it will safeguard our security and economic interests...A strong India will also pave the way for a peaceful world", Modi said.
Modi unveiled Indian Navy's new ensign that is octagonal in shape. It is inspired by the royal insignia of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, and it officially acknowledges for the first time that Shivaji was the progenitor of the idea of a modern Indian navy. Shivaji built his fleet of naval vessels in 1658-59, and at the peak of his power, he had built more than 50 combat vessels, with the help of Portuguese and local experts. These were gun boats, and lightly-built, but speedy boats. At the time of his coronation in 1674, he had around 700 vessels in his fleet, counting the number of trade vessels.
While unveiling the new ensign, Modi said, "Till now, the identity of slavery remained on the flag of Indian Navy. But from today onwards, inspired by Chhatrapati Shivaji, the new Navy flag will fly in the sea and in the sky." The red coloured St George's cross had been part of the ensign of Indian Navy since independence. This has now been done away with. In 2001, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had removed the St. George's Cross, but three years later, the UPA government's Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh brought back the Cross. It was finally consigned to the bin of history on Friday by Narendra Modi.
It took 75 years to remove the last vestige of colonial rule. The new octagonal shaped blue coloured ensign is inspired from Shivaji's ceremonial insignia, and the Indian Navy's motto "Sha No Varunah" has been added to the ensign. It means, "May the God of Seas be auspicious for us".
St. George's Cross was one of the symbols of colonial rule in India. St George was a Christian crusader in Europe. For nearly two centuries, the British ruled India, they pursued the policy of 'divide and rule' and enslaved us. They tried to make changes in our history, culture and education system. They used the instrument of Macaulay's education policy to enslave us in mind and spirit. They oppressed those who chanted the slogans of 'Vande Mataram' and 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai'. But they could not stamp out our culture, nor our Indian identity.
It is also a bitter truth that though we won freedom after a long struggle, we did not get rid of all the vestiges of colonial rule during the last 75 years. There are still many symbols of slavery present in India. The biggest vestige of slavery still left is the mindset that the British rulers had given us.
I would like to applaud Narendra Modi for telling the people of India to get rid of this mental slavery. We must have pride in our great heritage, our culture and our traditions. It was Modi who gave us the slogans 'Vocal for Local' and 'Atmanirbharta'. I was surprised why NCP supremo Sharad Pawar and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray did not say a word on Friday, when the 'Shiva Mudra' (seal of Shivaji) was adopted as inspiration for the new naval ensign.
The commissioning of INS Vikrant is a big symbol of India's march towards 'Atmanirbharta'. It is through self-reliance that we can gain 'Atma Gourav' (self-pride). Without Atma Gourav, India can never become a super power.
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