Sheila Dikshit, when talking about E Sreedharans imminent retirement, said that the man behind the Delhi Metro had given Delhi a new identity, a description that couldnt be more apt. Delhi is a sprawling city, and when you take into account Gurgaon and Noida, the distances involved are hugetravelling across the city can take at least an hour by road, and if youre crossing borders, the time spent travelling increases dramatically. What the Delhi Metro did then, by reducing the commute time, is nothing short of extraordinaryit has effectively made Delhi a smaller city. What is even more remarkable is that the entire projectspanning 190 km, and increasingis a government initiative. While the usual attitude towards government projects is that they are shoddy, inefficient and dont really work all that well, Sreedharans metro service has bucked the trend with excellent quality and implementation. Trains run on time, a remarkable feat considering the service ferries over 16 lakh passengers over 2,500 trips on weekdays. And, given the alternatives of travelling in crowded buses and open autos in Delhis predominantly blistering heat (two months of winter notwithstanding), the attractions of making a long commute in an AC train are just unbeatable. Its also spawned psychological and behavioural noveltieswhere the masses dont mind spitting and littering on Delhis roads (not to mention what they do on the walls), entry into any of the Metros modern stations transforms them into civic-minded souls who behave as they would if they were abroad.
Now, there are critics of the Delhi Metro, most of them saying the service is too expensive. While this may be true to an extent, the fact is that the greatly shortened commute time across the city has raised property prices in areas around Metro stations, which should go quite a way in mitigating the cost of construction of the Metro serviceif the government chooses to mop this up through higher circle rates for areas whose market value have increased dramatically. The Delhi Metro has been an invaluable addition to the city, and credit should go where its due: on E Sreedharans shoulders.