After 13 years as head of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, Ellattuvalapil Sreedharan insists he will quit his post at the end of his tenure in 2011 and says his replacement will be identified by August.
"My succession plan is that roundabout May-June, I will approach the Delhi government to permit me to select my successor and he will be in a position as an understudy or to work along with me for four to five months," Sreedharan, who is credited with revolutionising public transport in Delhi with the Metro, said in an exclusive interview on Tuesday to IANS.
Appointed as DMRC managing director in 1997, originally for three years, Sreedharan has altogether been given five extensions. His latest extension was last month, when he was asked to stay on for one more year.
He is adamant that this will be his last year in DMRC. But what will his answer be if the government wanted him to stay on? "Definitely no," Sreedharan replied.
"Mainly, because I am too old for this kind of hectic job. Others also should learn. They should learn to handle projects of this type," explained Sreedharan, who is also lauded for his stint as head of the Konkan Railways under the railways ministry.
The 78-year-old had undergone cardiac bypass surgery in April last year after suffering a heart attack.
Sreedharan and his team changed the way Delhiites travel with the mass rapid transit network making its first journey on December 24, 2002 when then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee flagged off the first Delhi Metro train.
Comprising six lines and 133 stations, the network now serves Delhi and neighbouring Gurgaon and Noida. At present, Delhi Metro, which has an average daily ridership of 1.5 million commuters, has 188 trains but by the end of 2011 the total number of trains will go up to 208.
Sreedharan pointed out that the plan for succession was a compulsory condition for his extension approval. "It is a government directive. When they had given me an extension, the government specifically said that a successor plan had to be drawn up."
The DMRC chief said he will be approaching the Delhi government and meet Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit about March-April with his proposal for the selection process. The DMRC MD is a Delhi government nominee.
"My proposal to Delhi government will be to invite applications... a selection board consisting of Delhi chief secretary, Union urban development secretary and myself will sit together and short-list the candidates," he said.
The DMRC chief pointed out that this will be his suggestion, "whether they will accept, I don't know".
But his plan is to ensure that the selection process is transparent and "very professional", so that the best possible candidate is chosen. "It will be very transparent. It will not be a political posting or that kind," he said.
He felt that as the current DMRC chief, he will be have a "good say" in choosing the successful candidate. "Because the requirements of this job I think I know better than anybody else what sort of person is required," said Sreedharan.
He hoped that the selection process will be over by July-August, as he would like the successor to work alongside him for four-five months.
"So that the handing over, transition will be very smooth," he said, adding that the candidate would work at a designation of "either joint managing director or deputy managing director".
Asked if his replacement would be from Delhi Metro, he said: "No, not necessarily...(We want) the best person suited for the job."