Eyeway Conversations with Anuj Dayal
3:59AM Apr 15, 2021
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Hi, my name is George Abraham and welcome to this edition of Eyeway Conversations. My guest today is Mr. Anuj Dayal, Executive Director, Corporate Communication of the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation. Welcome Anuj to this conversation.
Thank you George.
To begin with, I would like to ask you, why did the Delhi Metro actually get started?
Actually, India has been seeing an increasing level of urbanization. And the transport in the cities did not keep pace. So, there was more crowding and more pollution. So, it was a matter of time before somebody really thought about having a good train network, because metros have a much larger carrying capacity and they're non-polluting. So, Delhi could not avoid it. Population today in Delhi NCR is around 20 million and metro has become the lifeline with almost a 400 kilometer network.
What has the journey been like?
Very interesting. There were a lot of skeptics when we started the project, that it will be a failure, but we have proved them wrong over time. Today, I mean, almost 60 lakh passenger journeys are performed every day on the metro, pre-Covid situation. Even now, we are carrying out almost 28 to 30 lakh passenger journeys every day. We have quite a network, there are about 10-12 lines that we have on the entire network. We have a line which also connects the airport. So, since 2002, when we started the first line of 8.3 kilometers, it's been a very interesting and satisfying journey.
Most people consider the Delhi Metro as one of the best in the world. What actually makes it world-class?
You see, the first metro in the world started in London, in 1863, with a steam engine.
Now, Delhi Metro came into the metro scene very late. We started construction only in 1998.
We took full advantage of the fact that we were coming in so late.
Since we came in late, we decided to go in for the latest.
We explored all the metros in the world and we went in for the latest technology. In some areas, we were even ahead of them. We introduced a couple of new things such as contactless smart cards, and completely automated fare collection etc. And then modern train sets. So, since we did that, we decided to go for the best.
I remember meeting you for the first time in 1998 when I came to Pragati Maidan. It was the metro stall and the Indian blind cricket captain was with me and he was talking about blind cricket there. So, you know, I have noticed that the Delhi Metro has been very sensitive to disability. And so, my question is what actually prompted this and how did you go about making Delhi Metro accessible for people with disability? Because this is one of the few services in the country which you might call born accessible.
Two factors are mainly responsible for this - one is that the Government of India guidelines themselves specify that any such project should cater for physically challenged. Number two, the Managing Director Dr. Sreedharan at that time was a person who believed in this. So, he made sure that a substantial amount of money was set aside so that all facilities relevant internationally for physically challenged on the metro should be followed. So, we studied international metros, we studied other transportation systems and based upon the feedback that we got, we designed the system in such a way that it should be friendly for physically challenged.
If I were to specifically ask you, what are the facilities that a blind traveler can actually expect in the Delhi Metro?
The Braille strip starts from the beginning itself at the entrance.
It will lead them all the way to the counter from where they can buy the ticket. And from there onwards, the Braille will lead right up to the train. And normally we request such people to ask for assistance. So, one person is deputed to accompany him, and information is passed on to the station where he is supposed to get down, so a person will receive him and take him out of the system.
Yeah, when you say Braille guidance, you're referring to the tactile paths on the floor right?
Yes, that is there. And audio announcements are also there so that he knows which station he has to get down at. Also, the audio announcements specify whether the doors are on the left or on the right hand side.
So if a blind passenger wants to travel, is there a telephone number that they can call to requisition assistance from a particular metro station?
Every station has a telephone number that should be available on the website, but apart from that, we have a helpline number also. Yeah information can be passed on, but somehow, I mean, he has to inform the station staff.
In fact, I've seen this facility offered in the London Underground, you know.
Yeah, that's right.
And it's fantastic the way they
They do it, they make sure that the reliever at the receiving station is in position before they let go at the initial station.
When we talk about hearing impaired people, what are the kind of features that the Delhi Metro offers them?
Oh, one is a guided facility that is a person comes and takes that person along.
Then he has visual signages available in Hindi and in English. It will also show when the train will come, and on which platform it will come. So, there is enough visual information available that he can manage in spite of the fact that he has a hearing impairment. Inside the train, there is a map which blinks and shows which train station one is at. And when the station comes, that will also be indicated through visual mediums.
And of course for the physically challenged, you have lifts and ramps and I think the trains are at the platform level and the doors are wide.
That's right. And the first coach of every train has a place where a wheelchair can be stationed.
Do you have any anecdotal episodes of people getting back to you with positive or negative feedback of traveling in the metro, especially people with disability?
Yes, we do have some positive feedback. Actually, the number of people with disability traveling by the metro (I feel) may not be as high as it probably is in Europe.
Initially we did have a bit of negative feedback. For example, we have lifts at only one of the entrances. It is too expensive, you know, to have so many lifts because the project costs a lot of money. We thus requested people that they should know which entrance to enter from -- the one that has the facility for ramp, one that has the facility for lift. So, those details are available on the website. We are updating our website also to give more details. And then we got an audit done by a couple of NGOs. We got feedback on our department which handles this. They have been interacting with these people regularly. They have been giving us feedback and based upon that we have tried to implement. Plus the automatic fare collection has one gate that is wider than the others so the wheelchair can go through.
Right. Now, you know technology is constantly changing, there are new things happening and even in the area of accessibility, there are developments happening. So, does the Delhi Metro kind of actively keep track of this? Is there any specific department within the metro corporation that takes responsibility of keeping abreast of such changes?
We are actually a member of a group of metros -- of large metros, you know, the top 15 metros in the world. We have conferences with them every year. And we exchange a lot of information with them.
I would still say that we are -- I mean in many areas -- they look up to us because their metros are old. But we have a constant exchange with international metros to know what's going on in the world. And apart from that, we have a specialized department also which handles this -- we have an architectural wing. So, they are basically responsible for the upgrading as far as all this is concerned.
Now we have metros in Cochin, Bangalore, Chennai and I think Calcutta started before the Delhi Metro -- is there any link between all these metros and our experiences, especially in the area of disability access shared?
Actually, Delhi Metro is more or less the mother Metro for Metro expansion in India. All metros, they look up to us and they look at Delhi Metro for guidance. So, they more or less followed on our pattern. Plus we have a body of I-metros, that is Indian metros. We constantly exchange information within India about what we are all doing.
There are a large population of people with disability, even in the city of Delhi who travel.
Is there any conscious effort that the metro Public Relations Department kind of undertakes to publicize this so that more people can actually use the facilities?
Well, it has been some time. Yes. But we have our own social media handles. We have Twitter, we have Facebook, we have Instagram. Initially when we started, we publicized this in a very big way. And there were a number of articles, it has been very well covered actually, over a period of time. But I'm still open to reinforcing these. We can definitely do that more.
Yeah, especially for visually impaired people, radio would be a good medium.
Yeah, in fact, you know, there was a program I remember which I used to participate in -- it was a phone-in program -- on Sundays, in the morning.
Was it Saturday or Sunday. I don't remember. I think it was Sunday.
I think it's Saturday morning. Yeah, it's still there.
Maximum callers were visually impaired people. Some unhappy, some happy.
And any particular issues people were unhappy about?
They wanted some concessions and all.
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This has nothing to do with the accessibility but you know, if you go to the New York subway, for example, you do have people -- there are different artists, some are disabled artists, some non-disabled artists -- they perform. They call it busking, I think.
Yeah, they have it in London also.
Yeah. So do you have any ideas in future -- because somebody was suggesting to me that, you know, why don't you approach the metro and see if they would be interested in opening up some of the spaces in the larger stations where maybe artists, blind singers or bands could probably play?
We're not close to the idea completely. Let us see. I mean, I won't say we are closed to it.
What are the future plans for the Delhi Metro in terms of expansion?
Oh another 50 to 60 kilometers has been sanctioned and construction is going on -- connecting three corridors -- one is from Aerocity to Tughlakabad via Saket, one is from RK Puram to Janakpuri West. And a third third line is connecting the ring road line that is Majlis Park to Maujpur. So these three lines are already sanctioned, three more lines are being considered but they have not yet received the final approval. So another 60 kilometers should be added in another two to three years.
And these new destinations like the Jewar Airport and things, that would be a different metro company?
That will probably be handled by a company of the UP Government.
But we are involved to some extent as a consultant.
Well, is there anything else that you would like to say in terms of what you might be looking at offering people with disability in the future?
Well, I would say, let them give us honest feedback. We'll see how we can improve. Maybe we get some new ideas. I'm not saying everything that they suggest will be possible, but definitely we can examine some of the suggestions. So, they are requested to give their feedback to us on Twitter, or on Facebook.
Would you like to kind of spell out what your Twitter handle is?
One is on our website delhimetrorail.com. So, if you go on that website, you will find a section which gives you all the social media handles. Yeah, it gives you a feedback section, and then the Twitter handle also, if you just type Delhi Metro Twitter, you will be able to access it.
Well, thank you very much for your time.
Yeah, and I must appreciate the amount of work you are doing in this field, George. Great! Keep it up!
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