Elattuvalapil Sreedharan, the engineer behind India’s expansive and ambitious metro rail project in Delhi, is set to be the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) chief ministerial candidate ahead of the upcoming Assembly elections in Kerala.
“It is not a sudden decision [joining BJP]. I have been in Kerala for the past decade and wanted to do something for the state. I alone cannot do things. BJP is different and that’s why I joined the party,” Sreedharan had told the Malayala Manorama newspaper.
Sreedharan, 88, who advised the Kerala government on Metro projects in the state, said he will now end the practice. “I will focus on BJP centric activities,” he had told the paper.
He is a retired officer of the Indian Engineering Service and advisor to several Metro projects in India. He was a member of the United Nations’ High Level Advisory Group on Sustainable Transport.
Sreedharan is popularly known as the Metro Man for his groundbreaking work in transforming public transport in India, particularly his work with Delhi Metro as well as being behind the development of the Konkan Railways.
Sreedharan was born in 1932 in Karukaputhur, Madras Presidency, now in Kerala. He has received numerous national and international honours for his work in transforming the way people commute. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 2001 and felicitated with the Padma Vibhushan in 2008. He was awarded the French government’s Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur in 2005 and he was also named as one of Asia’s Heroes in 2003 by TIME magazine.
He pursued his higher education at the Victoria College in Palghat. Afterwards, Sreedharan completed a degree in civil engineering from the Government Engineering College, known now as JNTUK, in Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh.
His career started in the academia. He started out as a lecturer of civil engineering at the Government Polytechnic, Kozhikode. He then joined the Bombay Port Trust as an apprentice. Sreedharan then cleared the Indian Engineering Service Exam in 1953 and joined the Southern Railway in December 1954.
Sreedharan moved up the ladder in the Railways due to his ingenious ways of tackling problems and was duly recognised for it. In 1964, after a cyclone washed away a bridge, he completed the restoration work of the bridge in 46 days as against six month target set by the Railways.
Between 1970 and 1975, he was in charge of planning, designing and implementing the Kolkata Metro project. This was one of the most technologically advanced projects undertaken in India in the public transport field. Between 1979 and 1981, he was in charge of the Cochin Shipyard Limited and was instrumental behind its turnaround. He retired from government service in 1990 at the position of Member Engineering, Railway Board and ex-officio Secretary to the Government of India. However, the government kept him on a contract as it felt it needed him.
He then spearheaded the Konkan Railway project which was of a Build-Operate-Transfer model and according to its nature, it is considered one of the most difficult railway projects in the world. He then took up the task of developing the Delhi Metro project. In a span of 18 years, under his leadership, Delhi Metro changed the face of public transport in Delhi and NCR region. It completed sections regularly before target and is one of the handful of Metro projects in the world that have run in profits and have been able to shift massive public from road to Metro. After 2011, he took advisory roles in Kochi Metro, Jaipur Metro, Lucknow Metro, Coimbatore Metro and proposed projects in Visakhapatnam and Vijayawada.