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Has time eroded efficiency?

Racing against time to finish 10 proposed sections spread over 128-km, the DMRC has, however, compromised on aesthetics; safety, to some extent, seems to have taken a backseat, reports Atul Mathur/Sidhartha Roy.

delhi Updated: Oct 21, 2008 00:14 IST
Atul Mathur/Sidhartha Roy

Ten years after its construction first started, the Delhi Metro finally seems to have been afflicted by the Capital’s chalta hai attitude.

The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation completed its Phase I construction, spread over 65 kms, in record time and with an impressive safety record. Accidents were negligible and safety of its staff and public topped the priority list. People were impressed with the site-management, traffic diversions and deployment of marshals at various points.

More work less time

Racing against time to finish 10 proposed sections spread over 128-km, the DMRC has, however, compromised on aesthetics; safety, to some extent, seems to have taken a backseat.

For example, the number of launchers has increased from 13 in phase I to 24 in phase II, said a DMRC engineer. While adequate checks are conducted when a launcher is mounted on a particular section, there is less monitoring when it moves from one pillar to another, he said.

Falling standards

DMRC brought the concept of barricading construction sites to Delhi, but they can now be seen missing at some places. Huge cranes and other construction equipment operate too close to roads and have resulted in accidents. Lighting on barricades, which alert motorists at night, does not work at some stretches.

The first signs of Metro’s falling standards were evident in 2007, when there was a sudden surge in the number of incidents where Delhi Metro workers got injured or killed at construction sites. This year, call centre cabs were damaged and their occupants injured in two different accidents.

And this time, the general public bore the brunt of the carelessness. Safety experts feel it should work as a wake up call for the DMRC.

Too much outsourcing

The actual contractor takes up very little work and delegates most of it to sub-contractors, who, in turn, delegates it further to sub-sub-contractors. While DMRC interacts regularly with the main contractor, the sub-contractors and sub-sub contractors are accountable only to the contractor.

Interestingly, while the contractors have to meet strict guidelines to qualify for the financial bid of a contract, sub-contractors and sub-sub contractors are hired “with consent” from the DMRC. The pre-requisites, which are applicable to the main contractor, are not applicable to them.

“The basic idea of hiring a company that has vast experience is defeated. There is no check whether the sub-contractor and the sub-sub-contractor is qualified,” said a DMRC source.

Lack of supervision

With more work on its hands and less time, DMRC’s dependence on contractors seems to have increased. “There is not much monitoring and there is a lack of senior engineers at site as compared to Phase I,” said a senior DMRC engineer. “DMRC is a lean organisation with limited engineers. The work has more than doubled compared to Phase I but there is not much increase in number of engineers.”

DMRC spokesman Anuj Dayal, however, said there are enough engineers. “We have 690 engineers now, while the number was about half of this in Phase I,” he said.

“Number of people have increased but so have operations. During Phase I constructions, there were not many operational lines. Many people are now engaged in day to day operations too,” said a DMRC source.