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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Chasing DMRC Out – The Undercurrents

In the recent past, the media have been celebrating the controversy regarding Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL) by reporting every bit of news and non-news about it – Left, Right and Centre! Being a close observer, I felt that we as a society need to respond to such issues more creatively rather than just political gimmicking and forgetting it forever, once media loses interest in it.

At the outset, let me introduce Mr. E. Sridharan and his background to put the thoughts in right perspective for the readers of this article.

What we Know/ told in the media time and again:

·   Sreedharan is the man who took up the challenge of building Konkan Railway (which was discarded by British and later by international infra firms) and completed it on time, rather before time. To achieve this, as he told many times, he had to build a strong team for execution, who had steel nerves.
      He is the man who built a dream, world – class metro rail (The first of its kind and class in the country) in Delhi, again on time with very minimum hindrance to an already messy Delhi Traffic. I had witnessed this personally during my frequent stays in Delhi during 2005 – 2006.

What many people Miss Out:

·      He was the person behind Bombay Local Train to become operational on the third day after the serial blasts. This was considered impossible by any standards before and after it by Railways’ standards. Way back in an interview published in a daily, Sreedharan thanked the then Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav for the free hand he had given for execution, which made all the difference.
      DMRC was the consultant (Like for KMRL) for Hyderabad Metro Rail Limited and the day after finalization of the project concluded, Sreedharan called for a Press Meet and publicly announced his displeasure in continuing with the project as he accused HMRL of favouritism and foul play in nexus with Maytas Infra (A Satyam Group Company). The very next day he was given a defamatory notice by HMRL.

·   However, very soon there was India’s largest corporate fraud exposed through Satyam Chairman Ramalinga Raju’s confession about riding a tiger and not able to climb down and along with that the dubious deals of Maytas also got exposed. Later the whole project was scrapped and as recently as in 2010, it was re-tendered and L & T has taken the contract. Two years down the line, the project is progressing in snail’s pace, thanks to lack of leadership from experts of Sreedharan’s class, with straight forward attitude.
       Recently there was a claim by ‘Namma Metro’ of Bengaluru regarding their learnt expertize and they even claimed that instead of considering DMRC, KMRL should consider Bengaluru Metro for KMRL execution. The DMRC was the consultant there and during execution phase ‘Namma Metro’ had taken the execution job on their own, expelling DMRC citing that ‘Namma Metro’ wanted to build expertize within for future expansion and maintenance (The same reason being told in the case of KMRL, as well!). The fact of the matter is that there have been very vicious interventions and there have been 5000 trees cut for the project, which further dented the climatic equilibrium of Bengaluru (This was against the primary study and recommendations of DMRC) and in the process of building expertize, they could complete only 6.7 Kms (15% only) out of the total 42 Kms proposed. This is against the initial target of 14 Kms set based on the feasibility study for the phase – 1 (Three years).

Though people, who hear this theory of ‘Expertize Building’, would definitely fall in for the genuineness of it and nod their heads for it, they should also be made aware of the above facts. In fact, what makes these groups of unholy nexus to hate Mr. Sreedharan is the very facts mentioned above and there are lot of under currents which are flexing its muscles to drive Sreedharan & DMRC out by hiring few bureaucrats and some political black sheep.

The moment media drops this issue like a hot cake (which they had done on several issues with the interventions of powerful PR lobbies), it will become another Arushi case and another 2G or many such controversies?!  So, it is we who can keep this cause alive and respond continuously till we achieve our right of getting a world – class transport system.

Tail Piece:

The latest development is that the DMRC had agreed to extend its support in technical guidance and supervision and Sreedharan would be part of this team. This seems to be well crafted strategy to eye-wash the public as there’s a suggestion to constitute a body to define, control and operate the roles and duties of Sreedharan and his team! The funniest point is that the constituted body would have people like Sudheer Krishna, Principal Secretary and other bureaucrats, who had taken clearly sabotaging stands on previous occasions.

Final Point:

Sreedharan would not be a part of the suggested controlling body, which decides the roles and duties of his team and this means that Sreedharan would not have any say in the committee. Obviously, if Sreedharan comes across any kind of restrictions in his operations, he would publicly react and drop it like a hot cake (as he had done on previous occasions) and all the conspirers would become happy as thorn in their flesh gets removed on its own! If he sticks on despite controls imposed and a reduced role by the above said committee, it would be suicidal for him, as he will become a scapegoat for any failures and delays due to the unholy alliances. In both the cases, the project would suffer multilevel setbacks.

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