For his team he is a leader and an inspiration. For Delhi, he is the ‘Metro Man’.
The recipient of second highest civilian honour Padma Vibhushan, Elattuvalapil Sreedharan transformed the way people travel in Delhi.
Appointed as the managing director of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, the retired railway engineer took up the project from scratch and built a network of more than 190-kilometre line in less than 14 years.
After an association of almost a decade-and-a-half with Delhi Metro, Sreedharan has now decided to quit.
He not only managed to get the latest Metro technology in construction and operations to Delhi Metro, but also introduced safe construction practices to India. No wonder, several other Indian and foreign cities mulling Metro projects are taking advice from Sreedharan-led Delhi Metro on building a world-class Metro system. “He has got such in-depth knowledge of his field that political bosses and the bureaucracy respected his decision and let him work his way. He is highly professional and always takes his team together,” said CBK Rao, who was a director in DMRC till 2007.
“He is a great inspiration to all of us. Most of us feel we don’t work for Delhi Metro, but for Sreedharan Sir,” said a senior DMRC official, requesting anonymity.
Born in a remote village in Palaghat in Kerela on June 12, 1932, Sreedharan was selected to the Indian Railway Service of Engineers and joined the Southern Railway as a probationary assistant engineer in 1954.
As deputy chief engineer, he was in-charge of investigation, planning and design of the first ever Metro in the country at Calcutta, from 1970 to 1975. After retirement, he was put in charge of the prestigious Konkan Railway as its chairman and managing director.
His stint as the Metro chief received a jolt in October 2008, when Metro witnessed its first structural accident. But the collapse at Zamrudpur in July 2009 came as a bigger shock. Taking moral responsibility for the accident, Sreedharan offered to resign but the government refused.
“The accident shook him completely. It has had an adverse effect on his health too. He has been considering retirement for a long time but did not want to leave the project midway. With two phases of Metro already operational and work on phase 3 progressing, he probably thinks he can now hand over the responsibilities,” said one of his colleagues associated with the Metro for over a decade.