A black digital clock in the crammed up south Delhi office ominously counts down to the deadline of the next project. This is not a scene from your usual government office. But then, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) is not your usual government department either.
Ever since its first corridor, between Shahdara and Tis Hazari, opened on December 25, 2002, the Delhi Metro has changed the way the city moves. What it has also changed is the way we Delhiites behave in public and what we expect from civic agencies.
The need for a mass rapid transit system has been felt in the Capital ever since the early 1970s. What followed was a succession of committees, feasibility reports and studies on how to give Delhi a reliable, rail-based public transport system.
E Sreedharan, a reputed senior railway engineer, joined the DMRC in 1997. With a no-nonsense attitude and a small team of specially selected employees, Sreedharan soon got to work.
Even though huge concrete pillars were being erected and stations were built next to very busy roads, no one saw or heard a thing — thanks to barricades put up by the DMRC, a first for not only Delhi, but also India. The DMRC took other such measures to ensure that the city looked clean in the midst of Metro construction. This included the washing of tyres of trucks carrying dug-up soil from construction sites, so they didn’t dirty roads.
The Metro train was mobbed the day it was thrown open, leading to teething troubles. Since then, however, it has brought a sea of change in the behaviour of Delhiites. People have learnt to patiently stand in queues and behave themselves. The spic and span Metro stations and trains have deterred even the most seasoned spitters from practicing their art.
Starting with one small line, the DMRC today operates on a network of 190 kilometres with 139 stations and six more stations of the Airport Express Link. More than 200 train sets carry about 18 lakh commuters everyday from 6 am to 11 pm in seven operational corridors. The Delhi Metro has also ventured beyond the Capital’s boundary to Noida, Gurgaon and Ghaziabad.
The Delhi Metro has also brought together a city that was, for nearly a century, divided into north, south, east, west and the Walled City.
Burqa-clad women are seen travelling on the train, and college students can be seen savouring chaat in Chandni Chowk.
For people in other parts of the country, the Delhi Metro has become the most enduring icon of the Capital.