Chapter 38

The New Naval Academy At Ezhimala


Developments Until 1975

Sailor Training Establishments

Traditionally, there used to be two streams of sailor entry into the Navy - a younger 'Boy' entry and an older 'Direct' entry. The 'Boy' entry underwent longer training and was better inculcated in naval discipline. 'Direct' entry was resorted to whenever there were surges in the demand for manpower and shortages had to be made good. Direct entry sailors always underwent shorter training.

Prior to Independence in 1947, the Navy's Boys Training Establishment (BTE) was at Karachi. After 1947, a temporary BTE was set up at Vishakhapatnam to train the 'Boy' entry sailors. The 'Direct' entry sailors started being trained in the Basic and Divisional (B&D) School in Cochin. In 1965, when it was decided to base the Russian acquisitions in Vishakhapatnam, it became necessary for the BTE to shift out. Chilka Lake in Orissa was chosen in 1969 as the site for the new BTE. Prime Minister (Mrs) Indira Gandhi laid the foundation stone. Construction commenced in 1973 and INS Chilka was commissioned in 1980.

In 1968, intake had to be stepped up to meet the requirements of the Russian acquisition programme. It was decided to move the 'Direct' entry sailors training from the B&D School in Cochin to a new Seamen Training Establishment (STE). The Government accepted the Navy's proposal to site the new STE at Goa. In October 1969, Prime Minister (Mrs) Indira Gandhi laid the foundation stone. Construction commenced on a 230-acre site on a hill at Reis Magos, five miles north of Panaji, close to the northern bank of the River Man­dovi. The STE was designed to train 500 direct entry sailors at a time.

Officer Training Establishments

Before the National Defence Academy (NDA) was set up in the early 1950s, 'Regular' entry officer cadets underwent four years training with the British Navy and returned to India as Sub Lieutenants. 'Direct' entry Sub Lieutenants underwent basic training in the officer wing of the B&D School in Cochin.

By 1968, the shortage of officers became a cause of concern. And, as in the case of sailors, intake had to be stepped up to meet the requirements of the Russian acquisition programme. The required strength of 3,500 officers by 1975 necessitated an annual intake of at least 150 cadets. Since the NDA could not take more than 65 naval cadets every year, it became necessary to start a Revised Special Entry Scheme (RSES) and set up a Naval Academy, separate from the NDA. Until a location could be found for a permanent Naval Academy and until it could be constructed, a temporary Naval Academy needed to be set up for the RSES.

In 1969, approval was accorded for the commencement of the RSES. Under this scheme, naval cadets in the age group 17 to 20 years who had passed the In­termediate examination could be recruited in the Executive Branch. This scheme was identical to the NDA's 'Special Entry Scheme', except that the initial training of one year would be conducted at Cochin.

A temporary Naval Academy was set up in Cochin in May 1969. RSES training commenced in January 1970 and the first batch of executive cadets passed out of the Naval Academy in December 1970. The Naval Academy continued training RSES cadets until January 1974.

In 1973, the NDA got affiliated to the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi. Thereafter, all NDA cadets, on successfully passing their final examinations, received a Bachelor of Science degree of the JNU. The RSES cadet of the Naval Academy became out of step with his NDA counterpart. It was decided that instead of taking in pre‑gradu­ate candidates, it would be more cost effective to recruit only Science graduates and thereby further reduce the duration of their training at the Naval Academy.

In July 1974, the first batch of Graduate Special Entry Scheme (GSES) cadets entered the Naval Academy for an initial training period of only 6 months. Whereas the original sanction was for a total of 80 cadets to be trained every year, the Naval Academy now trained 80 cadets every 6 months.

As part of the 1974 reforms of Naval Training, it was decided that:

From 1974 onwards, the Naval Academy, in addition to running basic courses for cadets, commenced conducting the following officer courses:

Developments From 1976 to 1990

The Interim Naval Academy at Mandovi

By 1976, the Naval Academy found that it was not cost effective to carry out, separately, the initial training of cadets and of Acting Sub Lieutenants of various branches. It was decided that all initial training for cadets of the Executive Branch and Acting Sub Lieutenants of all technical branches should be of the same duration, should have a common syllabus and should run concurrently. This was imple­mented from 1976 onwards.

After 1976 and the acceptance of the Third Pay Commission's recommendations regarding changes in sailors' conditions of service, the Boy Entry was dispensed with and only Direct entry matriculate sailors were recruited. Training effort and costs could be minimised by having only one sailor training establishment (STE) at INS Chilka, which was expected to commission in 1980.

With the steady increase in the number of trainees in the 1970s, the Naval Academy found that it neither had the accommodation, nor the classrooms nor the infrastructure to cope with its training load. It was decided to:

Conceptual Requirements for the New Naval Academy

The 'essential' requirement was for a site of 100 acres, in the vicinity of the sea or a lake for seamanship and waterman ship training, near a railhead yet removed from the township. The 'desirable' requirements were that the location should be within a short distance of a naval port and have a bracing and moderate climate.

The Choice of Ezhimala

The sites considered for the new Naval Academy were Aruvankadu in the Nilgiri Hills near Wellington and the Pykara Dam Lake, the Lloyds Dam (Bhatgarh) situated off the Poona-Kolhapur road, Hassergate Lake near Bangalore, Porbandar on the Saurashtra coast, Chingleput near Madras and Ezhimala on the Kerala coast.

In 1979, the Government accepted the need for a permanent Naval Academy. The Kerala Government offered the Navy 960 hectares of land at Ezhimala, north of Kannur (Cannanore) in northern Kerala. All essential infrastructure facilities like drinking water, water for construction, electricity, approach roads and bridges, capital dredging of the Kavvayi backwaters (for basic waterman ship training), building of a seawall to prevent erosion, augmentation of the nearest railway station at Payyanur etc, would be provided by the Kerala Government at no cost to the Navy.

In 1982, the Government approved the site at Ezhimala and gave the Kerala Government a soft, medium term loan for acquisition of land and rehabilitation of evacuees.

Selection of Design Architects

Naval Headquarters took the view that a Naval Academy is built by a nation only once. From this institution would come the Admirals of the future. Therefore, the nation's best private architects should be invited to compete for the design of the prestigious Naval Academy.

This led to a contretemps in 1985. The Navy insisted that the Army's Military Engineering Service (MES) not be associated with this project because of its mandatory, procedural constraints, which had evolved over the years for austere, economical, standardised, defence construction. These constraints conflicted with the Navy's vision for how the newest Naval Academy in the world should look. Even the Prime Minister desired that the new Naval Academy should be a national monument, which the entire nation should be proud of. The MES expressed its inability to be associated with the project on this basis or even to compete with the private architects. The MES' stand was that they would only undertake supervision of the project if they were associated right from the design stage.

Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi laid the foundation stone on 17 January 1987 and in 1987 itself, Government approved the Navy's proposal that the Naval Academy be designed by private architects and constructed through consultants. In 1988, a Project Management Board was constituted under the Defence Secretary.

In 1988, a two-stage, all-India, architectural design competition was conducted without the involvement of the MES. It was however ensured that the adjudging jury, headed by the Vice Chief of the Naval Staff and comprising eminent private architects, had from the MES side, the Director General Works and the MES' Chief Architect. The winning firm was appointed as consultant to the project.

In 1989, the MES agreed to supervise the project provided it was done under 'Engineer in Command'. The Navy declined to agree to the MES' stipulation to exercise total control over the project and recommended that a Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) management consultant supervise the project. The Navy's recommendation was approved.

By 1991, the MES was persuaded to relent - it was too prestigious a project. The MES offered to supervise the construction, even though private architects had designed it. In the larger interest, the Navy agreed to associate the MES with the project but under the control of a Project Management Board. This was accepted.

Commencement of Training

At the time of writing, the Academy is planned to commence training in July 2005, with minimum essential training facilities completed.

1. Historical records indicate that Ezhimala had been a landfall for Arabian and Chinese seafarers since time immemorial. Vasco da Gama's pilot knew that the first land to be sighted on the Indian coast would be 'a great mountain which is on the coast of the Kingdom of Cannanore'.

The topography of Ezhimala, with Mount Dilli abutting on the Arabian Sea has, since ancient times, inspired the local people to weave a number of legends. The most popular is the one connected with the Ramayana tradition. At one stage in the war between Rama and Ravana, many of Rama's forces, including his brother Lakshman, were killed. An anxious Rama consulted Jambavan, the senior most in the Vanara sena. It was decided to bring four medicinal herbs, shalya karani, vishalya karani, sandhana karani and mritha sanjivani from the Himalayas for removing the arrows, healing the wounds, stitching the cuts and finally bringing the dead to life. Hanuman was entrusted with the task of collecting these herbs and he at once set out for the Himalayas. On reaching the Himalayas, however, Hanuman realised that he was unable to recognise the ayurvedic herbs. So he did the next best thing - he plucked the entire Rishabadri Mountain itself and flew back. On his way southwards, a piece of the mountain fell down near the sea and that is Ezhimala. The local people believe that Ezhimala still possesses these rare ayurvedic herbs.