Indian Decade

New Delhi Metro Pride

Many problems dog the Commonwealth Games. But one thing is running smooth.

Amidst the inadequacies and inefficiencies that dog the Commonwealth Games, there's one infrastructural addition every Delhi resident can be proud of, both for changing the way the city functions and for what it symbolises. The Delhi Metro, a rapid transit system serving Delhi and its quickly-growing suburbs Gurgaon and Noida, consists of 5 lines with a total length of 138 kilometres. The metro has 117 stations of which 26 are underground. Launched in phases over the last two years, it has already helped hundreds of thousands travel faster, cheaper and more comfortably in Delhi.

The Delhi Metro is built by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), a specially instituted public-sector body. Headed by technocrat E. Sreedharan, a career railway officer, it has also shown that Indian public-sector organizations can maintain stringent timelines while upholding quality and respecting taxpayers' money. An article earlier this year in the New York Times reported on the success of the project saying, ‘In a country where government projects are chronically delayed and budgets are busted, the Metro is on track to finish its 118-mile network by fall, right on schedule and within its $6.55 billion budget.’

Having lived through its construction, in a city as densely populated as Delhi, it was easy to see evidence of DMRC's intent on getting it right with this project. Rarely before had construction sites been so neatly kept and every effort made to minimse commuter pain for the average resident. And while large parts of Delhi lived through clogged roads, detours and blocked u-turns during the construction, little fuss was made. I truly believe people refrain from complaining when they know short-term pain will lead to long-term gain.

This seems quite a contrast from the present when many of us bemoan Delhi for having ever won the bid for the Games. As we battle through impossible traffic every day, few amongst us feel pride in living in the ‘Games city.’

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Much of the credit for the Delhi Metro must go to its steely but low-key boss E. Sreedharan. Often, politicians and bureaucrats say the dissatisfaction with our governance, administration and politics is a reflection of our society. But, Sreedharan has shown the true power in leadership and established what management gurus often say: ‘culture flows down, not up.’ Other than a few unfortunate mishaps in its construction, the Delhi Metro has been remarkably scandal-free. It's just the kind of positive case study we need to highlight and focus on as the incessant unseasonable rains and continual downpour of bad news about the upcoming Commonwealth Games continue to push our spirits down.