The death of senior Congress leader and former Union minister Jaipal Reddy brought forth a flood of memories for senior officials who had worked with him.
In fact, few would know the crucial role he had played in getting the Hyderabad Metro Rail project and similar ones in other cities off the ground.
HMR Managing Director N.V.S. Reddy, while expressing his condolences at the death, paid glowing tributes to him for contribution towards metro rail projects taking off.
Mr. Reddy recalled that the Ministry of Railways was insisting on adoption of Broad Gauge (BG of 5’ 6”) for control over the metro projects in Indian cities.
“Delhi Metro Phase I was built with BG but its chief E. Sridharan had faced a lot of problems as world over the gauge for metros was and is Standard Gauge (SG of 4’8”). BG metro coaches were not available,” he recalled.
Delhi Metro Rail Corporation had to get imported SG coaches altered to BG dimensions for operating on Delhi Metro Phase I.
The then governments of Maharashtra (Mumbai metro), Karnataka (Bangalore metro) and the united AP (Hyderabad metro) strongly pleaded for permission to adopt SG and freedom for States to execute modern metros without interference from Railways.
Group of Ministers
The Centre then appointed a Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by Sharad Pawar to decide metro rail policy issues for the country.
Mr Jaipal Reddy, the then Minister for Urban Development Minister, Finance Minister Chidambaram, Railways Minister Lalu Yadav and Law Minister Hansraj Bharadwaj were other GoM members.The HMR MD said Railways, DMRC and representatives of the State governments made presentations to the GoM. “Mine was last presentation on behalf of AP. When I met Jaipal Reddy with then MA&UD Secretary S.P Singh, he advised us to make GoM understand the issues and implications in simple terms avoiding technical jargon,” he said.
Mr.Reddy explained as to how the wider gauge BG was not suitable for city conditions because of many properties needing to be demolished in Hyderabad and other cities.
As technology was not available for metros with BG it could also lead to delays. Indian Railways had no stake or expertise in metro rail projects and they shouldn’t dictate terms to the State governments, the GoM was told.
Except for Mr. Lalu Yadav others consented leading the Centre declaring that “Urban Transport” was a State subject as per the Constitution and States were free to adopt whichever gauge they wanted.
“That’s how all metros in Indian cities could be built as world class metros with state-of-the-art technologies. Jaipal Reddy also strongly supported HMR project when several contentious issues were raised by different groups with Government of India against the project,” added the MD.