Sreedharan and Metro

Perhaps the whole country was looking at the Delhi Metro project with pride. Sreedharan, the superannuated but still in action old man, was the hero. I kept on advising the government to search for many more Sreedharans to get rid of sloth in the hundreds of infrastructure projects of the country. But the recent accidents at the construction sites that got echoed even the parliament were disturbing. It must be taken as a fore-warning. And even Sreedharan must take it in right strides and learn some lessons. I am sure the great man as he is, must be pondering over that already.

Since the Delhi Metro started working in Noida, I was closely observing its progress. I was appreciative of the speed of work, its cleanliness, its professionalism and the safety net. I used to look at the concrete pillars and prefabricated segments getting assembled with awe. Naturally, concrete structures require better quality control practices of the input materials and the processes to eliminate internal flaws and cracks. In these structures and fabrications, each of the basic design and process steps ensure robustness of the system.

All the tools and techniques of the quality controls have been established in construction industry over the years that ensure practically zero defects. The recent accidents and further investigation showing undesired cracks in a number of supporting cantilever piers in various sectors under construction certainly tell a different story. Perhaps the organizational structure of DMRC had weakness. It can’t be overlooked by fixing up blame to some individual or contractors. The attention must be on the quality of management control that must be robust against any possible complacency in the organization.

Sreedharan may deserve some sympathy for his outstanding performance till date in meeting the schedule of completion. But with the amount of autonomy at working, he would have developed a fool-proof management system to prevent what happened. He has certainly failed there. And it is but natural that with such failures, the image gets affected badly and people forget the past record and age.

Last month my friend had informed me with immense happiness on his face about the start of the metro operation from Noida from August end. But as some of the friends now tell, perhaps the operation from Noida will also get delayed. DMRC must take more rigorous checks to avoid any undetected errors for the future safety of the commuters.

Sreedharan has taken disciplinary actions against some individuals and the contractors but I don’t know if he has started thinking saying ‘bye’ to DMRC after selecting the right heir to replace him. I don’t know if he has prepared one. And this is usually the common mistake even by many legendary leaders. Perhaps Sreedharan proved himself the same type of mortal. However, Sreedharan has been one of the best super-managers of landmark projects in India, and has left his mark with recognition coming from many agencies including some from the developed countries in the West too.

I am sure by next month or a month later, I shall be riding the metro from Noida to New Delhi, though I didn’t do that in the first metro of the country in Kolkata when I lived for so many years. I shall certainly not like to miss this time.

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