Sreedharan’s faulty Metro math
Looks like the laurels bestowed on E Sreedharan were excessive, if not misplaced. The ‘Metroman’ had claimed that the rail infrastructure he was building would last a hundred years. Similar projects in other countries did serve the people for over a century. London Underground, for instance, has been operating since 1890. The Paris Metropolitain, Istanbul Tunnel, Berlin U-Bahn, Madrid Metro, New York Subway have all been serving the people for over a century now. But Metro planners in India have shown a clear lack of foresight and even technical expertise. Delhi Metro, for example, built stations for eight coaches. But due to increased traffic, many trains are now running with 12 coaches. Experts say some routes desperately need 18 coaches. But while the overground stations can be expanded to accommodate longer trains, underground stations have no such provision. Top sources in Rail Bhawan say, Sreedharan was aware of the traffic projections, but refused to build longer underground stations saying the cost would be too much. As a result, Delhi is stuck with a Metro that is barely being able to serve the present. On the engineering side, Metro pillars in the marshy areas of Kochi city have started tilting. This has created a huge scare among city residents. The quality of Metro construction is a matter of huge debate in Kerala these days with people hauling Sreedharan over the coals.
Poll-eve G20 meet and ITPO’s missed deadlines
India will take over the G20 Presidency on December 1, 2022, from Indonesia and convene G20 leaders’ summit in the fourth quarter of 2023. As per Osaka declaration, India was slated to host the summit in 2022. Indonesia was the next host. But India swapped places with Indonesia. No reasons were offered. But Indonesian foreign minister said India wanted the change and Indonesia agreed as the G20 Presidency in 2023 would have overlapped with Indonesia’s Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Presidency in the same year. So, on the eve of 2024 general elections, New Delhi would host 20 top world leaders including Biden, Putin, Xi Jinping, Trudeau, Macron, etc. The Indian Trade Promotion Council (ITPO) under the ministry of commerce has been given the task of building a world class facility, including a convention centre, in central Delhi’s Pragati Maidan. The project has, however, already missed two deadlines. As per the initial plan, it was to be ready in 2018. Then the deadline was set at 2020. Efforts are now being made to complete it before the G20 summit next year. There was also a plan to build a five-star hotel within the complex. This was to ensure hassle-free travel for the VVIPs to the convention venue as well as to avoid traffic snarls in New Delhi. The contractor for the convention centre, Shapoorji Pallonji, is also building the Central Vista. Covid has left Delhi NCR’s labour force highly depleted. The work on the two projects, therefore, is not progressing at the desired speed. As a result, the plan to build a five-star hotel is as good as shelved, and ITPO is racing against time to at least complete the main convention centre at Pragati Maidan.
Tatas hit air pocket over new Air India CEO
Ilker Ayci’s close links with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the past has come to haunt him. Ayci was recently named by Tata Sons as the chief executive officer of Air India, which has been taken over by the company. Immediately after the appointment, pictures of Erdogan attending Ayci’s wedding was splashed across Indian newspapers. For Ayci to assume charge, he has to first get security clearance from the Ministry of Home Affairs. Sources said that the government was not keen on allowing ‘Erdogan’s friend’ to run a large airline in India. The Modi government has had a frosty relationship with Erdogan, who has been taking the Pakistani line on Kashmir and has consistently been a thorn in India’s flesh.