Delhi Metro Managing Director Dr. Elattuvalapil Sreedharan, widely hailed as the Metro Man of India, is responsible for single-handedly rewriting the country’s urban transport story. Dr. E. Sreedharan was born on June 12, 1932 in Palakkad district, Kerala. He studied at the Victoria College in Palakkad and then graduated as an engineer from the Government Engineering College, Kakinada. After a short stint as a lecturer in Civil Engineering at the Kerala Polytechnic in Kozhikode and a year as an apprentice at the Bombay Port Trust, he joined the Indian Railways through a nation-wide selection procedure. His first assignment was with the Southern Railway in the capacity of a probationary assistant engineer. During his long association with the Indian Railways, Dr. Sreedharan garnered a considerable reputation as someone capable of taking up and succeeding in difficult and daunting projects. The speedy restoration of the Pamban bridge (1963), which connects Rameswaram to mainland Tamil Nadu, stands out among a host of stunning engineering feats that collectively attest his impeccable credentials. This exceptional achievement earned him the prestigious Railway Minister’s Award in 1963. In 1970, he was appointed as the Deputy Chief Engineer for design, planning and implementation of the Calcutta Metro, the first-ever metro project in India.
Dr. Sreedharan retired from the Indian Railways in 1990, whereafter he was appointed the CMD of Konkan Railway. The project, he was associated with, was not only unique but quite challenging as well. The total project covered 760 km and had over 150 bridges. It had 93 tunnels along a length of 82 km and involved tunneling through soft soil. Under his able, stewardship, the project was completed within seven years, which was an achievement widely considered as exceptional, given the difficulties and the challenges involved.
Dr. Sreedharan joined the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) on November 5, 1997 as its first Managing Director. Since then, he has been instrumental in ensuring the timely completion of all the scheduled construction works. As the train network expanded across the NCR to cover about 190 km, Dr. Sreedharan’s name became synonymous with that of the Delhi Metro. The media was prompt in naming and popularising him as the ‘Metro Man’. He has received many laurels and awards in recognition of his performance, including the prestigious Padma Yibhushan (2008). Padma Shri (2001) and Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur by the French Government (2005). He was even approached by the Pakistan Government for the execution of the Lahore Metro plan.
The significance of his expertise can be highlighted from the fact that, over the 14 long years of his service as DMRC Chief, Dr. Sreedharan was offered four service extensions by the Delhi Government. He was finally granted retirement on his own demand and, on December 31, 2011. Dr. Sreedharan handed over the charge to the new Metro Chief Dr. Mangu Singh, a colleague and partisan for many years. Thus, the last day of the year 2011 marked the last day of Dr. Sreedharan’s long and fruitful professional career.