When Chennai Metro Rail Limited’s Project Director R Ramanathan walked out of the meeting with the congregation of CSI Wesley Tamil Aalayam, not many in his entourage were surprised. Metro Rail officials have been known to reach out and sort out issues like building cracks and burst water pipes quickly; but very little could have prepared them for a raging crowd of church-goers, ostensibly pitted against them.
As soon as he walked out, Ramanathan was invited to step up to the small pulpit and address the gathering, which he did, with ‘technical’ details of the CMRL project. “The tunnel boring machines are the best technology available today and these have been tested in almost every European country,” he started. “The reason why these cracks have developed is because the TBMs were not allowed to drill continously on the Mannady-Washermenpet stretch. The shops around this church refused to vacate and that set us back by two weeks. When we restarted the machine on Tuesday, the machine started with a jerk and that caused these cracks,” he explained.
He then assured that CMRL would use the best engineers and repair the building in a week’s time.
The pastor and members of the Pastorate Committee who had been dealing with the CMRL officials and had facilitated the meeting seemed happy with the speech, but it didn’t go down well with most of the others. As soon as the floor was opened to questions, the barrage began — Rajan, a member, asked if they would give the results of their tests and studies so that they could get it ratified by an engineer of their choice. An incensed Ramanathan replied, “First, you will bring an expert and then that gentleman in the third row will bring another and finally so many people will have looked it over and objected that the work will never proceed.”
As he reiterated his offer of conducting repairs, the voices got louder — demanding insurance that these cracks do not reappear. But it was when a member asked him why they were so ‘careless’ after having made a mistake, that Ramanathan erupted, “Between a building getting cracks and lives being lost, which is better? I would pick cracks. Most of you are repeating the same question and time is getting wasted. Either let us repair it or you can do it yourself and we will pay for it. But if you do it, there will be no guarantees,” he said and left the church.