Ten years ago, on December 24, 2002, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the first passenger on the Delhi Metro Railway when he boarded a gleaming new train at Kashmere Gate and travelled to Seelampur, formally inaugurating the 8.3-km Shahdara–Tis Hazari metro corridor. On Monday, the Capital’s state-of-the-art transport system’s tenth birthday celebrations were marred by closure of nine key stations due to protests and agitations that have affected the city for the past few days over the criminal assault of a young girl.
While the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation had planned big celebrations to mark the anniversary, “the sensitive nature of the current developments in the city” forced all plans to be postponed. The Delhi Metro had on Sunday cancelled a function scheduled to commemorate a decade of operations with dignitaries such as Union Urban Development Minister Kamal Nath and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit who were going to electronically launch the induction of the eight-coach train into commuter services. While the formal function was canned, two eight-coach trains were inducted into service around 11-30 a.m. without much fanfare on the Vishwavidyalaya–Qutub Minar route.
Till late evening, entry and exit into nine metro stations, including the busiest Rajiv Chowk which sees a footfall of 5 lakh passengers on an average day, was not allowed as per instructions from the Delhi Police to prevent protestors from reaching India Gate. However by 6 p.m., “Limited entry gates are open for public at Rajiv Chowk and Central Secretariat metro stations. No exit allowed,” read a Delhi Metro Rail Corporation statement.
The Delhi Metro which has over the last decade grown from an 8-km stretch to over 185 km carrying 20 lakh passengers has become a crucial lifeline of the Capital city.
Yet the 10 anniversary was a dampener for the Metro with commuters having a tough time travelling as stations were closed. “It took me a long time to get to my place of work because I could not get off at the Rajiv Chowk metro station. Though the train stopped, there were no exit gates open on Monday morning,” lamented a commuter who works in the vicinity of Connaught Place.
“Commuters were obviously inconvenienced,” said a DMRC spokesperson. “We have not got any directions from the Delhi Police regarding reopening of stations.”