It’s All Fools Day, but it’s no joke that it’s the first day of the month in which Kochi dwellers are getting their much-coveted metro. Yes, Kochi Metro is becoming a reality, that too in record time for a metro rail project in India. The prestigious project for which Manmohan Singh laid the foundation stone in September 2012 was flagged off by then Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy in May 2013. Since then the special purpose vehicle Kochi Metro Rail Ltd, formed to execute the project, has been right on track to meet the deadline 1095 days away. And haven’t they made it, that too with the record of completing the lengthiest first phase of 13km plus within the shortest time. All praise for the Kochi Metro team with E. Sreedharan at the helm.
Now that the metro could me declared open any day, the station branding work is going ahead smoothly. This will ensure more revenue streams for the project which, being public utility cannot be run on cut-throat prices. The metro, hopefully, will eventually reduce road traffic as people realize the efficacy of using the metro than be stuck in the heat and dust of road traffic in Kochi.
It definitely is important is that Kochi Metro’s first phase ahead has been completed ahead of time. And we can even forget that the first phase completion ahead of time has helped the exchequer save a minimum of 4 billion rupees. What is even more significant is that it shows how upright technocrats can indeed make a difference if they stand up to corruption. We need to remember that politicians and career bureaucrats of Kerala had indeed tried to muzzle the project so that they could milk it dry. But all credit to the tactical brilliance of the team behind the project that it could complete the project on time, despite several procedural bottlenecks. Kerala is notorious for bureaucratic and political delays that derail even the best planned. What should be appreciated that Sreedharan, with his experience of launching the first vessel, Rani Padmini, that the teething trouble-riddled Cochin Shipyard built after decades of delay, knew how to handle the hyperactive politicians and unions of Kerala. Of course the metro is still suffering from land acquisition woes for the rest of the first phase and the even more ambitious second phase.
Definitely, the authorities will have to take a relook at the transportation plan for the Greater Kochi area once the metro becomes full-fledged. Bus routes and timings may have to be reworked so that they can take advantage of nodal points where most number of passengers board or alight.
What is important at this point is that there is hope for the state which is suffering from short-sighted policies and corruption.