It’s business as usual for Oommen Chandy

Even as Kochi celebrated a major breakthrough in its march towards a modern city with the inauguration of the Kochi metro, it was business as usual for former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, who had designated it as one of the flagship projects of his government and almost completed the project.

Arriving at the Kottayam railway station unaccompanied, he went to Christ the King Cathedral to pay his respects to Archbishop Kuriakose Kunnacherry, who died on Thursday. From there, he went to the residence of a bereaved Congress worker at Kaduthuruthy. He then moved to his home constituency to complete personal visits. Later, he returned to the cathedral and participated in the last rites of the archbishop.

Speaking to The Hindu, Mr. Chandy said he was not pained by the total blackout of the role played by his government at the inaugural function. “People of Kerala know what is what. We had to overcome formidable obstacles to make it a reality,” he said. He said the government had put a 1,000-day cut-off mark for the project’s completion. “We could hold the test run on the 873rd day,” he said.

He said the election declaration came when the project commenced its trial run. “All that was left (for the LDF government to do) was to refurbish the metro stations,” he quipped.

Mr. Chandy said rather than the direct fallout of the metro on the public transport architecture of Kerala, the impact of the project on the social psyche was more important. “The metro gave the people of the State the confidence that we can do anything.”

He said land acquisition was the major impediment in the infrastructure development of the State. “We will have to find a new model for that,” he added.

Praising E. Sreedharan for the role in realising the dream project, Mr. Chandy said it was the Metroman who took him, then the Chief Minister of Kerala, for a ride on the Delhi metro in 2005. “It was after this that we decided on the project, he said.

However, the LDF came to power after the elections and it lost precious time as the Planning Board wanted to quash the project. “After the UDF came to power, we decided to go ahead. In spite of the lack of Central nod, we completed all allied works. We went full throttle the moment we got green signal from the Centre,” Mr Chandy said.

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