“Hamare liye garv ki baat hai ki 24 December 2002 ko Atal Bihari Vajpayee iss desh ke sabse pehle metro ke passenger bane they” (It is a matter of pride for us that on December 24, 2002 Atal Bihari Vajpayee became a passenger in the country’s first metro), said Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PM Modi was speaking at an event in New Delhi on December 25 to launch the Magenta line of the Delhi metro. Here is the speech of the Prime Minister.
So, is the Delhi metro the first metro system in the country as claimed by PM Modi?
The above photograph is of former PM Indira Gandhi laying the foundation stone for the Kolkata metro in 1972, the year in which the project was sanctioned. Kolkata metro is the oldest metro transport system in the country. It commenced operations on October 24, 1984 when the first train rolled out of the Esplanade station to cover a distance of 3.4 kilometres to Bhowanipor.
Designed to make travel smoother by transporting masses of people for short to medium distances at high frequency in urban and suburban spaces, the metro system also known as the subway, underground or the tube has been operational since the 19th century when the Metropolitan Railway (now part of The London Underground) opened in London in 1863.
The Kolkata metro was conceived as the panacea to the ills of surface transportation in the city where roads accounted for a little over 4 percent of the surface area. A blueprint was prepared in 1971 with the help of U.S.S.R and engineers from East Germany to construct five rapid transit lines in the city. The project was finally flagged off in 1984 after a decade of delays. In 2010, the Kolkata Metro became the 17th zone of the Indian Railways and is operated by the Ministry of Railways.
So what about Delhi metro?
In 1995, the Government of Delhi and the Government of India jointly set up a company, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (DMRC). E.Sreedharan was appointed as the managing director of the joint venture. Construction began in 1998 and the metro was operationalised on December 24, 2002 when then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee inaugurated the Red line of the metro from Shahdara to Tis Hazari. The Delhi metro was the second metro system to become operational in India after Kolkata.
Considering that Kolkata metro has been operational since 1984, PM Modi’s statement that Delhi metro is the first ever in India is in sync with the outlandish claims that have been made in the past by the ruling party and its members. Earlier this month, Alt News busted the claim that PM Modi travelled in the first ever seaplane in the country. It has now become a routine affair for politicians to hog the limelight and take credit for big and important projects and indulge in hyperbole. Hence, a healthy dose of skepticism on the part of the citizen is completely warranted.
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