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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Bajaj Auto roll out bike Bajaj V ~ from the steel of INS Vikrant !!

In metalworking, rolling is a metal forming process in which metal stock is passed through one or more pairs of rolls to reduce the thickness and to make the thickness uniform. The concept is similar to the rolling of dough. …. .. … in Marine Hull insurance, there is coverage from cradle to grave – ship (boat) building is covered from the laying of keel, to … the final [funeral] voyage and at last breaking up !!

There was a time when Indian two-wheeler segment was all about  : Lambretta (Lamby) Vijay, Bajaj scooters – Jawa (Yezdi), Bullet, Rajdoot  - then entered 100cc bikes – touting fuel consumption as USP.   The big name was ‘Hamara Bajaj” – from the studs of Bajaj Auto having its factory in Akurdi, Pune; Aurangabad and Uttaranchal.  Amidst its various brands was “ Chetak ” named after the legendary horse of Raja Rana Pratap Singh.   It was launched in 1972 and ruled the market for decades.  People used to wait for years after booking, vehicles were sold at a premium, some said they got it by paying in foreign currency which was extremely scarce those days.  There were stories of it being unavoidable dowry in the mid 70s and early 80s.   A very sturdy simple one – those days in Bajaj vehicles,  the engine was mounted on one side and hence those owners touted that others would find it difficult to ride.  I remember taking delivery of Bajaj Chetak after paying Rs.16200/- [all inclusive on road on Jan 1990] –  and was so elated in owning it. 

Alang is a small town in Bhavnagar district in Gujarat….it is on the coast and is known Worldwide for its yards, not exceptionally state of art, mostly manual ….yet something associated with big work ! ~ it is on the  Gulf of Khambat, (formerly known as the Gulf of Cambay), an inlet of the Arabian Sea that  divides the Kathiawar peninsula.   I had sometime posted on a vessel that served Indian Navy gloriously ~ one which was first ordered to be ‘HMS Hercules’  by the Royal Navy.  She was laid down in Nov  1943 on the River Tyne; launched in Sept 1945 ~ bought by India in 1957, modified and served the Indian Navy gloriously.  It is the famous ‘INS Vikrant’ [another ship – an aircraft carrier by the same was launched in 2013] …. Vikrant was commissioned into the Indian Navy by then Indian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Ms Vijayalakshmi Pandit in Mar 1961 in Belfast. The name Vikrant was taken from Sanskrit vikrānta meaning "stepping beyond", i.e. "courageous" or "bold". Captain Pritam Singh was the first commanding officer of the carrier. I saw it once in Bombay docked near the Port – those were not the days of smart phones – yet this photo I would cherish. 

In the 1971 War with Pakistan, Vikrant was stationed off the Andaman & Nicobar Islands along with frigates, INS Brahmaputra and INS Beas; and was redeployed towards Chittagong.  On the morning of 4 December 1971, Vikrant’s eight Sea Hawk aircraft launched an air raid on Cox’s Bazar from 60 nautical miles (110 km) offshore. On the evening of 4 December, the air group struck Chittagong Harbour.  The Pakistan Navy deployed the submarine Ghazi to specifically target and sink Vikrant. However, Ghazi sank off Visakhapatnam harbour, due to attacks by INS Rajput.

After a distinguished service, she was decommissioned in January 1997; was preserved as a museum ship in Cuffe Parade, Mumbai, until it was closed in 2012 due to safety concerns. Then sadly,  Vikrant was sold through an online auction to an Alang ship-breaker,  reportedly at a cost of Rs.60 crore.  It was taken to Alang and was broken !  A sad fate that awaits most ships after say 25 years. These vessels who have outlived their existence are sold and dismantled to recover the valuable steel. A very major % of the vessel consists of steel which can be rerolled besides valuable machinery such as generators, marine engines etc., There are various other miscellaneous material as well.

Looking to cash in on the patriotic fervour on Republic Day, Bajaj Motorcycles teased its new bike Bajaj V, which will reportedly be “forged from the invincible metal of the 1971 Indo-Pak war hero INS Vikrant”. Striking a chord with millions of Indians on the 67th  Republic Day, Bajaj launched a spirited video campaign with a few hints and flashes of the upcoming Bajaj V. “We at Bajaj were determined to not allow history to fade away into oblivion. So we took INS Vikrant’s metal, melted it and gave it a new face,” the voiceover says, stirring patriotic feelings in the viewer.

From the silhouette, the bike looks like a classic motorcycle with alloy wheels and a short saddle, and a special INS Vikrant logo will be engraved on the tank. Bajaj hopes national pride will push consumers to not miss the unique opportunity to own a piece of Indian naval history.  The news is that Bajaj Motorcycles will launch Bajaj V on February 1, ahead of the Delhi Auto Expo 2016, alongside three other bikes.

It is nostalgia for the Nation !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

27th Jan 2016

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