Attitude for altitude

Beginning its operations in 2002, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation now has a route length of 296 km, making it the 12th longest and 16th largest in daily ridership. Its punctuality is 99.9 per cent when any delay of over 59 seconds is considered a delay. After its expansion, it will reach a length of 350 km and become the fourth longest metro rail.

Its ground rules were laid when its founding managing director E Sreedharan took charge and reported directly to the PMO during the initial period of construction. Since then, Dr Mangu Singh, the current Managing Director, has taken the lead. Recently, I shared a panel with him at the International Project Management Association’s Global Summit in Delhi.

He voiced concerns about the attitude of public officials holding decision-making posts. ‘It is in our interest that the project that has been contracted out to a contractor gets completed in the defined time, and we should assist in making that happen. This may include resolving issues, seeking permissions, etc. Timely intervention can help achieve timely execution,’ he elaborated. On being questioned about the fear of persecution by vigilance for taking ‘undue interest’, he cautioned that once the decision-maker has a clear conscience and follows due procedures, the benefits overcome the odds of persecution. He confirmed that DMRC had no pending cases and issues that faced resolution challenges.

Indeed, Dr Mangu Singh explained that the ethos of DMRC reverberated with such positive project management measures. And the results are now apparent. We all know that the Delhi Metro was a challenging project – when it began, how many of us would have had the faith that it would be ferrying 2.8 million passengers a day, while maintaining cleanliness and time discipline? Little wonder that it has won several prestigious awards!

In fact, as much as 425 km of metro lines are already in operation in 10 cities now. Ongoing approvals will take India up to 700 km. The PM has envisioned metro lines in 50 cities. With such colossal investments, our cities would be greatly served as transportation is one of the biggest urban banes today.

As the stance of governance is hardening, institutions standing on weak or corroded legs are stumbling and crumbling. After the case of corrosion of ethics in ICICI, IL&FS, too, seems to have bloodied its nose by first becoming a messiah to Maytas Infra (the Satyam scam fallout) in 2009 and then several unrelated forays. Maytas Infra, then run by Tejas Raju, has been hit by the Satyam scam and had to be rescued as part of the overall operation by IL&FS. To date, Maytas, now renamed IL&FS Engineering, has not been able to script a turnaround and is running in losses. However, IL&FS’s downfall has been its averseness to the principles of transparency and governance by defending itself using the clout of its investors, which include HDFC, SBI and LIC, among others. IL&FS was downgraded from ‘Triple A’ to ‘D’ in a matter of a few weeks. Having defaulted on debt repayments, it is in the process of selling its 37,000 sq m headquarters at Mumbai’s Bandra-Kurla Complex, among other assets.

While corroded assets crumble at the altar of efficiency and governance, new debutants are filling the shoes of the gorillas of the past. Our forthcoming INDIA CONSTRUCTION FESTIVAL (ICF), opening on October 24-25 at Taj Palace, New Delhi, will showcase the best, biggest and fastest growing construction, building material and equipment companies. Supported by the Ministry of Commerce, the Festival is also partnered by New York-based Engineering News-Record magazine, EEPC, NHBF, CIDC and BAI. Look for the registration details provided in this issue and book early. See you at #ICF2018!