Elattuvalapil Sreedharan is a retired Indian Engineering Service (IES) officer popularly known as the “Metro Man.” The civil engineer has led the way for infrastructure projects for more than five decades. He is largely recognised for changing the face of public transport in India by his administration in building projects like Konkan Railway, Delhi Metro, Kochi Metro and several other major infrastructure projects. He was honoured with Padma Shri in 2001 and Padma Vibhushan in 2008.
E. Sreedharan was born on Sunday, 12 June 1932 (age 88 years; as of 2021) in Ponani Madras Presidency, British India, (now Palakkad district in Kerela). His zodiac sign is Gemini. Sreedharan completed his schooling at Palakkad’s Basel Evangelical Mission Higher Secondary School, and later on, went to the Victoria College in Palghat. He attained a degree in Civil Engineering from the Government Engineering College, in Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh. After completing engineering studies, the Metro Man started off his career as a lecturer in civil engineering at Kerala Polytechnic college in Kozhikode. There, he used to teach civil engineering subjects. In 1953, he passed the Indian Engineering Service (IES) examination, and in December 1954 he was appointed as the Probationary Assistant Engineer in South Railway. Thereafter, he moved to the Bombay Port Trust as an apprentice, before joining the Indian Railways in its Service of Engineers in 1954.
Height (approx.): 5′ 10″
Eye Color: Brown
Hair Color: Black
Family & Caste
Sreedharan was born into a Hindu family to Neelakandan Moosath (Father) and Ammaluamma (Mother).
Sreedharan’s wife is Radha Sreedharan.
The couple has four children: eldest son Ramesh is one of the vice-presidents at Tata Consultancy Services; daughter Shanthi Menon runs a school in Bangalore, another son, Achyuth Menon, is a doctor in the UK. Their youngest son is M. Krishnadas, who works at ABB INDIA LTD.
In Civil Engineering
He was recruited in the Indian Railways Engineering Service (IRES) as an assistant engineer in 1954 by clearing UPSC exam. In 1990, he retired as a Member (Engineering), Railway Board and ex-officio Secretary to the Government of India after serving in the organisation for 30 years. However, the government gave him an extension and appointed him as the Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) of Konkan Railway on contract. He spent seven years there, thereafter, he was made the managing director of DMRC (Delhi Metro Rail Corporation) in 1997. In December 2011, at the age of seventy-nine years, he retired from the Delhi Metro rail corporation (DMRC) after completing two phases of Delhi Metro. Until then, he had already given his fifty-seven years to public service and all he desired was a quiet life in solitude. However, the government still wanted him and subsequently, his tenure was further extended. He was given the responsibility of overseeing the Kochi Metro (Constructed in four years), the monorail in Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram, the construction of the south-west speed-rail track, and several other metro projects. He took on these new challenges at eighty-one with the same determination that he had displayed six decades earlier when he walked into the Indian Railways, re-embarking on a work-life of non-stop travel.
Some of E Sreedharan’s major contributions in India’s infrastructure development:
Rameshwaram Pamban Bridge: A unique aspect of Indian bureaucrats is that most of them fail to get the job done within the specified deadline and funds. However, the same has not been the case with the projects headed by Sreedharan. He first came to the world’s notice in 1964 after he reconstructed the Pamban bridge, which was wrecked by a cyclone. Although, he was given six months to complete the challenging task; he repaired the bridge to working conditions in just 46 days. He was given a cash award of Rs. 1000 by the then Railway Ministry of India.
Kolkata Metro Project: In 1970, he was put in charge of the designing and planning of the first metro project of India – the Kolkata Metro. He ventured into the project with minimal knowledge and understanding of the Metro rail system. He spent four days studying the model of Tokyo Metro lines; the outcome of this was a world-class metro rail system in Kolkata. He headed the project for five years till 1975.
Cochin Shipyard Limited: He had a brief stint as the chairman and managing director (CMD) of Cochin Shipyard from October 1979 to November 1980. Under his leadership, the shipyard commissioned its first ship, MV Rani Padmini, which was launched the next year in 1981.
Konkan Railway Project: Following next was the Konkan Railway Project, an epic in the history of Indian railways. Building the Konkan Railway threw up a whole range of difficulties for the engineers tasked with the job. The rocky Sahyadri range had to be bored through, bridges had to be built through valleys, and more than 1,500 rivers had to be forded. The total project covered 760 km of track and had around 2000 bridges had 93 tunnels. Starting from Mangalore in the south to the town of Roha in Maharashtra, the track would run between the Arabian Sea and the Western Ghats. The monumental project, which had been written off as an impossible task since the time of the British, took just seven years and three months to complete under Sreedharan’s leadership. In a country where it takes years to build a flyover, this was probably an unbelievable speed of construction. The better India
Delhi Metro Project: The most modern metro line in India, the Delhi Metro, is one of his biggest feats. Sreedharan was given the title of ‘Metro Man’ by the media for his grand accomplishment. He oversaw phase one (65.11km) and phase two of Delhi metro (124.9km) as the Managing Director of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation from 1997 to 2011. Here are two interviews from different times in which Sreedharan is explaining about the construction of the Delhi Metro.
On 25 February 2021, at the ripe age of 88 years, E Sreedharan made his political debut by officially joining the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). He joined the party during BJP’s “Vijay Yatra” meeting organised at Changaramkulam. After siding with the party, the veteran civil engineer said that “it is one of the greatest moments in his life.”
On 4 March 2021, the BJP named Sreedharan as its Chief Minister candidate of Kerala. He contested the 2021 Kerala Legislative Assembly election from the Palakkad assembly constituency and lost to the incumbent Shafi Parambil of the Indian National Congress. On 7 October 2021, the BJP elected him a member of the BJP national executive council. On 16 December 2011, while addressing the media at his residence in Ponnani, Sreedharan expressed his disenchantment with the BJP. The Hindu He said,
The BJP cannot make any progress in Kerala without changing itself.”
I entered politics not as an active politician, but as a bureaucrat. I entered politics in my old age. I could serve the country in many ways even before.”
Books on E Shreedharan’s Biography
A lot of articles and stories can be found on the internet which summarises his meritorious career. But there are two books that encapsulate his biography in detail and contain rare information not only about his career but also about the personal life of the Metro Man.
Books by E Sreedharan
Awards & Honors
- Railway Minister’s Award (1963)
- Padma Shri by the Government of India (2001)
- Man of the Year by The Times of India (2002)
- Om Prakash Bhasin Award for professional excellence in engineering (2002)
- CII (Confederation of Indian Industry) Juror’s Award for leadership in infrastructure development (2002–03)
- One of Asia’s Heroes by TIME (2003)
- AIMA (All India Management Association) award for Public Service Excellence (2003)
- Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science from IIT Delhi.
- Dr Yelavarthy Nayudamma Memorial Award
- Bharat Shiromani Award from the Shiromani Institute, Chandigarh (2005)
- Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur (Knight of the Legion of Honour) by the government of France (2005)
- Qimpro Platinum Standard (Business) National Statesman for Quality in India (2007)
- CNN-IBN Indian of the Year 2007: Public Service (2008)
- Padma Vibhushan by the Government of India (2008)
- D.Lit. By Rajasthan Technical University, Kota, Rajasthan, in 2009
- Degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Honoris causa) from IIT Roorkee, 2009.
- Newsmaker of the Year by Manorama News in 2012.
- Sree Chithira Thirunal National Award, 2012
- Honorary SR Jindal Prize awarded by Sitaram Jindal Foundation, 2012.
- TKM 60 Plus award for Lifetime achievement, 2013 by TKM College of Engineering.
- Degree of Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa) by Mahamaya Technical University on its first convocation (2013)
- Rotary International for the sake of Honour Award (2013)
- Lifetime Achievement Governance Award by Grifles (2013)
- KPP Nambiar Award by IEEE Kerala Section (2017)
- Lifetime achievement award at Republic-Open Magazine’s Achievers Awards (2019)
- One of the hallmarks of Sreedharan’s projects is that not one of them was stained by a suspicion of corruption.
- Owing to his experience and skill set, he could have been successful anywhere. E Sreedharan could have easily got 50 times more salary than what he received from the government while heading the Delhi metro project.
- His determination and loyalty to his work can be illustrated through a plethora of real-life situations and decisions made by him. For instance, consider the national railway strike in 1974: The 20 day-strike by 1.7 million workers is perhaps the biggest railways strike in India to date. But also at that time, Sreedharan was busy designing a Metro rail network in Calcutta (now Kolkata) and therefore denied stopping his work.
- In 2015, the metro man, Sreedharan was also appointed by the former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to serve on the UN High-Level Advisory Group on Sustainable Transport (HLAG-ST) for a period of three years from 2015 to 2018.
- In 2019, the Jammu and Kashmir Governor administration appointed E Sreedharan as the principal advisor for the construction of two mass rapid transit systems which are to be built in Jammu and Srinagar.
- A Biopic film “Rama Sethu,” based on the life of Sreedharan, is in making and is slated to be released shortly. The film is directed by VK Prakash and it is scripted by S Suresh Babu.