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Upset officer seeks VRS

New Delhi, April 18: The navy’s senior-most officer has applied for voluntary retirement after being superseded to the chief’s post.

Vice-Admiral Shekhar Sinha, the chief of the Western Naval Command, offered to quit today — four months before he is due to retire — a day after Admiral R.K. Dhowan superseded him to take over as the country’s 22nd navy chief.

Sinha, the senior-most vice-admiral, was to retire on August 31 this year, while Dhowan was to retire three months earlier on May 31. But Sinha, a batch-mate of former navy chief D.K. Joshi, was senior in terms of service.

In the hierarchy-bound armed forces, supersession is taken as humiliation. In the past, Lt General S.K. Sinha had quit as vice-chief of the army after then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi appointed General A.S. Vaidya as the army chief in 1983.

Sources said an upset Sinha has written to the defence ministry, saying if “justice” is not done to him, he should be given voluntary retirement.

The sources said Sinha may have chosen to opt for voluntary retirement because, under current rules, the government can deny post-service benefits to an officer who resigns. The sources said the navy chief and the defence ministry would examine Sinha’s papers before taking the final call.

Dhowan’s appointment came nearly two months after Admiral Joshi resigned following a fire on a submarine that killed two officers.

“When the government has taken 50 days to decide on the navy chief’s appointment, obviously a lot of thinking and analysis must have gone into it,” said a navy source.

Many had expected Sinha to put in his papers after Admiral Joshi resigned on February 26, the day of the fire on the INS Sindhuratna, one of a dozen incidents on sea over the past year.

Earlier, in August last year, 18 sailors were killed in an explosion that ripped through the submarine INS Sindhurakshak at the naval dockyard in Mumbai.

Although the navy considers only two of the dozen mishaps on sea in the past year as serious, these did take place under Sinha’s command — the Western Naval Command — the most important command for the navy.

Sources said several vacancies in the navy’s top brass would be filled up over the next few months. One of the first vacancies to be filled up will be the position of vice-chief. Vice-Admiral Sunil Lamba, commandant, National Defence College, is likely to be named vice-chief, who is responsible for policy and plan implementation.

Dhowan and Lamba would be expected to “synergise” efforts on infrastructure and indigenisation plans, the sources said.

India is building 45 new warships and submarines and also working on a new “work force architecture” as part of efforts to become a more powerful force over the next decade, a source said.

As chief, Dhowan is due to retire on May 31, 2016. A navy chief has a tenure of three years, or till he reaches the age of 62, whichever is earlier.